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

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

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

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

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

Full collection 433/433.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shenmue 2 – Review

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

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

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

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

A really ugly environment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t even know…

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

Final Score – 7.1

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

Shenmue – Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score – 7.0 (biased opinion)

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

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Review

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

The Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score – 8.8

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

Two for the price of one?

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.

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.

Call of Duty: WWII – Review

Another day, another Call of Duty campaign in the books. This is just a little review of the single player portion of this game since I don’t care to play the multiplayer at all. It will also be super short because what can you say about another Call of Duty game after you’ve just played one of them?

Get ready for some man mood.

This game was pretty damn good. So I have a long history of playing both Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, starting with the Playstation 1 version of Medal of Honor. So when I say that WWII first person shooters holds a nice little spot in my heart, I mean it. I forgot the feeling you get out of playing an FPS based on that war, it’s seemed to have gone out of fashion in the past decade or so. I didn’t even think about it until this game loaded up and I had a M1 Garand in my hands and then switched that over to the M1A1 Carbine. Oh man, the weapons in this game are what make it so good. Perhaps any game that gets the firing, sound effects, and handling of these weapons right will be good enough for me. The weapons are all awesome and feel right, along with the great controls and sound effects. It just gets the feel of what one of these games needs to be. Fire off the 8 rounds in your Garand and hear the ting noise that is so iconic, its perfect. So we’re doing good so far.

Do you heard the call? The call of duty?

The story was enough to keep me engaged and entertained throughout the twelve stages of the campaign. I was a little worried when it starts with the beach landing, since it seems like well-worn territory, but it quickly moves through that and gets into the mainland of Europe. While I wasn’t really invested in the main story, it actually drew my attention more than other games in the series. I attribute this to the different actors used for the characters and the way they look in the game. More modern entries in the series make a lot of the squad-mates look similar and I kind of don’t care about them. The group story also helps in making the squad feel like a real unit of guys going on missions.

All that’s really left after this is the levels and what they have to offer. They’re good looking and offer some nice opportunities to shoot Nazis to your hearts content, which is fun. I really don’t have many complaints about the levels in this game, they are entertaining and keep the action moving. You get spots where you can snipe with your Kar98, which feel great. You just have to love sniping with these weapons and lining up shots with the iron sites of the guns.

I’m not going into some deep-dive on the levels and the story, because I just don’t care to do that. I think I will play this game again at some point, it’s a bit hard to go back to the older WWII games in the series since they’re so old. I just have a soft spot for this era, add that to the smooth gameplay and high production value single player campaign and you have a winner in my book. I wish the trophy list just covered the single player though (which isn’t likely to ever happen), I’d probably go for the platinum if it did.

Final Score – 9.0

Hrmm… the same score I gave to the last game, seems a bit shady if you ask me. I would have put this a few points lower, but I just love those guns and would play the game again just to run around shooting Nazis with my favorite weapons. So if you love classic guns, love shooting Nazis, what the fuck are you waiting for?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered – Review

If you ever want to see a stark contrast between the quality of two games, try playing Star Wars Battlefront II and then play this game. This game only has the single player portion of MW2, which is all I wanted from it. That’s because I only play the single player portion of the Call of Duty games so this was perfect for me.

Time keeps on ticking.

I’m going to keep this little review short and sweet. I played through the whole campaign in one day, just like I did with Battlefront II. The game just feels right. Activision and the studios working on the CoD games, along with the engine they utilize to build these games, are just a winning combination for this style of game. The shooting, running, and aiming all work in beautiful harmony with the controller to make the action feel just right.

Sometimes it’s nice to not have sprawling maps with quests and shit like that to have to worry about.

The variety of weapons that you pick up are all distinct in firing, as well as the animations and sound FX that go along with them. I noticed that I would get attached to the performance and shooting patterns of certain weapons and would carry them along with me through a mission. It makes the experience feel more personal. There is also something to keeping the load-out you start a mission with throughout the mission. It feels more like your characters personal weapons; why would you want to lose those during a mission?

The campaign is really strong in this game, easily making it my favorite of the ones that I can remember. The story is pretty strong as well, even though I wasn’t really focused on it all the time. The last time I played this game was about a decade ago and I still remembered some of the levels. The only thing that is missing from this remaster, for me, is the Spec Ops mode. I loved playing the Spec Ops challenges in single player mode, trying to get all the stars for each level on my own was a fun challenge.

Final Score – 9.0

The single player campaign is great. It’s one of the best linear FPS campaigns you can play. Sometimes it’s nice to not have sprawling maps with quests and shit like that to have to worry about. Focus on the feel of combat, action set pieces, and feeling like a badass.

South Park: The Stick of Truth – Review

I get that I’m late to the party and all that, but I have some down time right now and I’m trying to get through some of my backlog.

I don’t think I’ve seen an episode of South Park since the early 2000’s. It’s insane to think that this show is still going for over 20 years. The game is a little old though, having been released on the PS3, but I really wanted to play a game that would make me laugh. There aren’t many games out there that are truly funny and make you laugh out loud. I can’t really even think of the last one where that happened.

Yes, what you think happens, happens…

If your sense of humor matches up with the South Park brand, then you’re definitely going to laugh at this game. It’s almost insane the areas they go here. You have Nazi zombies, guys fucking horses, and turning the main hero into a miniature version of yourself and battling under your parents while they have sex. You even have to dodge your dad’s balls when they come flying down during battle.

Seeing as this is a video game and not an episode of the show, how is the game itself? Well, it reminded me of video games from about 20 years ago in some aspects. Where todays games smooth out little spots, like figuring out how to do certain puzzles, this game still had that old-school way of thinking. I would get to a spot and know what I needed to do to pass the little puzzle, but I just couldn’t figure out what I needed to actually do with the controller. The game might give a little message about what to do next, but you’d only get it once and for a brief amount of time. So I was stuck to googling for answers on occasion, which didn’t feel great.

Who knew?

I wish the controls were better implemented, it would have helped with solving the puzzles in the overworld, making them a lot easier and more enjoyable. You have two sets of commands that are set to the L1, L2 and the R1, R2 of the controller and you have to keep switching through them to select different commands. It honestly feels like a Sega Genesis era game like Beavis and Butt-head. It’s not bad, just not the greatest.

What makes this game so good are the visuals. It literally looks like you’re playing an episode of the show. While that aspect continually impresses as you play, you start to wonder why more games aren’t exploring the different visual possibilities that machines are capable of producing these days. If you have any nostalgia in your heart for these characters or the show, you’ll definitely get a kick out of exploring their homes and town. With accurate voice acting from the original cast, the presentation of the game is beyond reproach.

This game gets insane, it’s pretty funny.

The combat in the game plays like an old school RPG. I got pretty bored of it after awhile. It made me wish that there was less combat in the game, if I could have pulled a slider to lessen the number of battles I would have done that. It just got a little repetitive. I ended up trying to use the same companion as much as possible and would do the same attacks over and over. The only real strategy was figuring out if I should do an X or Square attack, or if I have the energy, to do one of my special attacks. What was nice is that health and stamina regenerate after battle, which made combat more enjoyable. I’m excited to see how the change in combat in the sequel is going to carry me through that game.

Seeing the trophy list in this game made me not want to go through the hassle of getting the platinum. It just seems like too much of a hassle to do it. While I enjoyed the game, I didn’t enjoy it enough to go through it again, or load up saves and collect the remaining trophies one-by-one.

It was a blast seeing all the little moments of comedy that sprung up on me while playing, from a cameo by Morgan Freeman to what you see when opening random people’s front doors, it made me chuckle out load multiple times. I’d suggest playing the game on the easiest setting and just trying to plow through the combat, get the story and enjoy your time. It was definitely a good first effort for a South Park video game, better than I thought it was going to be, but also more old school than I ever thought it would be. I’m not one to lament on the past and think older games are still the best, we moved away from cryptic puzzles and poor controls for a reason, and I don’t have time for shit like that.

Had to end it with this…

Score – 8.2

A fun story with an amazing presentation, brought down slightly by a boring combat system and fumbling puzzles and controls.

Picking a New Game to Play

I decided to go for Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds DLC to play. I’ve been looking forward to going back to this game since I enjoyed it so much the first time through. I fell in love with the story and setting the first time and wanted to experience it again.

I only got the platinum for the main game the first time, granted, it’s all that was available to get. Since the initial release they added a New Game + mode and the DLC. which comes with it’s own sets of trophies. I made the decision to go all out and start with a new game + on ultra hard difficulty. This allowed me to get acquainted with the controls since it would go over the opening and all the mechanics while running through the story to watching the cutscenes.

The first thing I noticed and loved about this game are the controls. I love how snappy the controls feel, especially considering I’m coming off of playing Assassin’s Creed games. In those games, the animations of your character are more deliberate and heavy, it takes time to turn and you can’t control your character in mid-air like you can in Horizon. It’s just more snappy and “video game” than the AC series, which feels like a breath of fresh air.

You also can notice just how fast the menus are, which, if you played AC Odyssey on the PS4 you know how long everything takes to load. You can just bang around the different tabs of your menu and things just load quickly, oh the little things in life. I’ve basically just came off of a really badly optimized game, one that needs to connect to the internet to load bullshit into it’s menus that makes me wonder if the menus load faster not connected to the internet.

So far I’m loving the change of pace from the AC games I’ve been playing lately, it’s a really nice breath of fresh air for me. It’s also more fun to play than Spiderman was.