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.

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.

Xbox Series X – Finally a Release Date and Price & PS5 Release Date and Price Prediction

So the ball is officially rolling finally. After the leak yesterday, we got a price and date for the Series X.

Price – 499 USD
Release Date – November 10, 2020

I figured that after yesterday this would all happen and it’s just nice that it did. I do think they hit their price, and it’s a good price for what the system is capable of. They just need the games now, and backwards compatibility, payment plans, and game subscriptions will only get them so far.

I have the money to preorder one of these consoles, but if I also get the PS5 (which will happen), I’m just not sure what I’d use this one for. I’m not hating or anything, I just have a nice PC where I can play all the other games on with their PC game pass when the time is right.

The exciting part of this all is that it gives Sony the opportunity that they’ve been waiting for to finally put out price and release date for their launch.

PS5 Prediction

The PS5 needs to release November 3 with a price of 499 USD for the disk version and 399 USD for the digital. The bad part of that date is that it’s election day and that will be a fucking nightmare in the garbage filled landscape of American news. Perhaps because of that, and assuming they can’t go into October (which I would just love), they can match the November 10 release day of the Series X.

Please just let me lock in my preorder and let me know how much money I’m going to be dropping Sony.

The Witcher 3 Gets Free Next Gen Upgrades

It was just announced that The Witcher 3 will get upgraded graphics and features to take advantage of the hardware of next-gen consoles. This will include support for ray tracing and increased load times. I’m sure they’ll also bump the resolution and max out a few of the other settings, I hope. It would be nice to have a couple graphical options, perhaps a 120 fps mode, 60 fps mode, and resolution vs dynamic resolution settings.

You have to just love CD Projekt Red and their business practices. They seem to always put the consumer first. Remember when you bought the physical copy of The Witcher 3 and it came with a map, stickers, and a thank you note from the company? That was at a time when all companies stopped putting physical items of any sort inside of their physical game cases.

After the developer, or more importantly the publisher, of Control just announced that you need to buy the “special edition” of the game to even be eligible for the next-gen upgrade patch that will come at a later time. Which is complete bullshit, why can’t someone who has the game and the DLC get a free patch? Why do you need to sell another copy of the same stuff for current-gen to be eligible for something in the next-gen?

This just got me excited to play the game again. I own it for both PS4 and PC and would love another reason to get back into that world. It’s an interesting strategy, give the consumer reasons to play your games. Make your games stay current with the hardware by supporting new features like quicker loading and ray tracing. People will notice this and be more willing to support your new releases, like Cyberpunk 2077, because they know that they’ll be taken care of and that their purchase will stay relevant in the future.

The Witcher 3 came out over 5 years ago on PS4 and it’s still getting supported.

Control came out just over a year ago and they’re already trying to nickle and dime the people that supported them most. These are the people that bought their game and DLC the earliest, they’re the ones that are being targeted to buy another copy of the game and DLC just so they can get features that were included in the PC version.

I know who’s more likely to get my next 60 dollars.

Halo Infinite Delay

Can we just talk about Halo Infinite for a minute?

What the hell is going on with this game? I’m just going to say it, I don’t think 343 Industries really know what they are doing. Yeah, that’s a shitty thing to say and kind of unfair and all that, sure. They’ve been developing this game for going on 5 years and the video they showed is all they got? Perhaps it’s a directive from Microsoft that they need to be targeting all the consoles, which includes the original XBox One, but they just need to stop.

I don’t want to get into a console war discussion or anything like that, but this was going to be their big launch game for their new console! And now it’s pushed out, hopefully to drop the current gen version and to focus on improving the visuals for next gen. Give us a reason to buy your expensive ass console Microsoft! Make it an event, make it exciting! It’s so annoying that they are just crapping this thing out without a tentpole game.

I’m not sure what it would feel like if I was truly excited to buy a Microsoft console again. It’s been a while since I’ve really been excited about buying a console exclusive game of theirs. I’d love that to happen, I truly would. Instead all I’m thinking about is taking that console money and upgrading my 2070 Super graphics card to whatever new thing is going to be released this year. If the single player of Halo Infinite turns out to be something, I’ll just pick up game pass for a month and play it on there.

Perhaps Microsoft just doesn’t want to compete in the console market anymore. Are they shifting their strategy to just services? They’re going to lose me faster than Stadia did if that’s the case.

Watch the video clip they had and look at this guys shoulder seam…It boggles my mind that they’d use a joint like this in a modern game.

Listen Microsoft, focus on your first party games and the next generation of consoles. Nobody wants to play a game made for the original Xbox One in 2020. Put out serious games with no micro transactions, with amazing graphics that are compelling to play, and that are purely exclusive to your new console. Leverage the next gen hardware you’ve already invested in, give us reason to game with you. If Sony has faster hard drive access speeds, show us why your speed is good enough and why the added GPU and CPU power you have in your console makes your console a place we want to game. You’re losing the battle before it even begins. Don’t focus on the idiots at IGN with their 2020 console battle watch, or whatever the fuck they call it, nobody is paying attention to that shit anyway. Be competitive, invest in first party, launch with quality single player games, blow our minds with graphics, and you’ll have converted me back into your console market. If not, I don’t care just like you, and I’ll give you 5-20 dollars next year in a subscription fee to play a couple of your games since that’s all you want anyways. If you’re lucky I’ll forget to cancel for a month or two and make your shareholders happy for a second, but at least someone will be.

Streets of Rage 4 – Review

Not sure that I’d really call this a review in the traditional sense, more like an impression. I played this game off of the Xbox game pass on PC, so I didn’t spend any money on it and had no real commitment to it. I blew through the story mode in two sittings over the course of two days (only a couple of hours). I played as the female character Blaze as I beat up and raged out on enemies and bosses. It was a solo affair for me and it was enjoyable while it lasted.

As a kid that grew up on the NES and Genesis, I would have loved this game back in the day. I’m sure my brother and I would have gone through with every character on all the difficulty levels, unlocking anything that could be unlocked. Today, I just went through the story once, got what it was, and moved on.

The art style is what really stands out to me with this game. It has amazing 2D hand drawn animation for the characters. Add that with the impressive shader work, it really adds a new dimension of interactive lighting to this style of game. It’s really great and I’d love to see them try out a different type of game with the same art style (or perhaps a TMNT Arcade game remaster?).

Boss Fight

The combat is good, I’m not going to analyze it or anything, it was just a good one of those games to me. I just don’t have the high level of love for this kind of stuff. Before playing, I read a review for this game online where they guy reviewing it had so much love and passion for everything about this game. He still played the older Streets of Rage games and went into it far beyond what I could do. Honestly, that review was what made me decide to pick this game up. I can respect it and admire its beauty, but I don’t need to keep this one installed. I hope other people pick it up and enjoy it though, I’d love to see this company produce more awesome work like this and I was happy to experience it.

Love the style

Final Score – 6.5

If you like this type of game, add a few more points to the score. Honestly, it’s a good game, just not for me. It’d work well in a home arcade machine.

Gears 5 – Review

Having finished this game over a month ago and only now getting to writing about it can only mean one thing. Satisfactory. If you don’t understand that then you’re missing out on the most addictive game since shuffleboard.

Gears 5 is another one of the games that I’m playing for free with my Game Pass for PC, I’ll try and play all the exclusives before it expires in a few months. I’ll cut right to the chase though, I’ve played all the Gears of War games and this is definitely the best it’s ever been.

Some great environments in this game.

The increase in storytelling and the way it’s been integrated into the gameplay is really good. They definitely took a page out of the Uncharted playbook on this one and it pays off. Your party will constantly be chatting and adding context to the environments that you’re in. This also has the benefit of making you pay attention to the story, which is something that tends to get lost a bit in these types of games. Add that to the increase and variety in environments, it all adds up to make the world of Gears that much bigger and more interesting. The previous games started to feel a bit stale and the world was just drab and boring looking. Gears 5 has you going through different settlements and even wide open spaces in the snow and sand, to underground labs that are reminiscent of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Cool looking lab

While the last Gears game made me just want to run through the environments to get to the next fight as quickly as possible, which became a serious drag, this one enforces exploration. It does this by scattering little upgrade collectibles around the levels that can be used to upgrade your robot companion, Jack. If you find a certain number of them, you can upgrade an ability of his, which scratches that collectibles itch. The upgrades are nice to have, but I really didn’t use them that much so your mileage may vary.

I enjoyed the combat in this game. The biggest improvement to the formula was to not have so many encounters one after the other like the previous games. In Gears 5 you’ll have long stretches where you don’t fight anyone and it’s actually nice. Once you get to the later acts you get this dumb wind sled thing which will allow you to explore the massive open areas and look for objectives. I say that it’s dumb because this is the worst designed vehicles I’ve used in a really long time. The damn thing is just so fucking slow. I don’t get what’s going on, I literally think something is wrong with my game. What’s funny is that the animation and music all pick up when it catches the wind, you think this is it and you’re going to start hauling ass across the map, but you don’t. I don’t understand if they did this for a technical reason or if they actually thought this was a good speed. It needs to be at least 300% faster. It’s a Gears game, things are supposed to be more extreme. You do end up getting into some wind storms and you start picking up a head of steam, but that’s the only time the damn machine feels good to maneuver.

What a piece of shit…

The open areas weren’t too bad. I enjoyed having little side areas to explore. They mostly provided a new upgrade for Jack, perhaps a bit of story, and some combat encounters. Again, the only issue was getting to the points using the slow ass sled.

The game looked really good running on my PC. I had all the graphics set as high as they could go, running on my 3440x1440p screen. I have a RTX 2070 Super and AMD Ryzen 9 3900X just for reference.

Benchmarking

One issue that I did have with the way graphics were handled in this game is the indoor/outdoor settings. The large open enviornments use a different lighting model than the indoor environments. This is, I’m sure, due to the level of complexity and the high cost of rendering the lighting to the same level in the larger environemnts. It just really sucks to be “inside” were everything is nicely lit and shadows are really refined, to then get to the little transition point where you drop into the open world. The scene cuts briefely as the settings are changed and it just looks like a different game. This game is on PC, just give me the option to change the lighting model to better match the indoor lighting, even if it takes a massive hit to performance, I just want to see what it looks like and if my machine can handle it.

***Spoilers***

Back to the story for a second, I wasn’t expecting such a decision at the end of the game. It makes me really wonder how they’re going to do the next game and what choices they’re going to make. It really fit into the choice based system they’ve had implemented into the series all the way back in the first game. It was a nice nod to all the types of choices you’ve had to make as a player by picking which route you’re going to take. Bold moves indeed.

I feel like The Coalition has finally become a top-tier developer for XBox with this release. I do think that they are the one promising studio in Microsofts first party lineup, I don’t count 343 sadly because they’re treatment of the Halo franchise has been filled with potholes up to this point, I guess we’ll see if they can finally pull their heads out with the new Halo game at the end of the year.

Just a quick little review and wrap up on this game. I’ve been distracted in this Coronavirus apacolypse world, mostly from playing way too much Satisfactory, to really sit down and get my thoughts out on this game. I found it highly enjoyable and worthwhile experience. It’s a little insane that it was released on GamePass right away, but that’s not my decision so I’ll take it. I enjoyed the story, combat, and even the world of Gears, which feels a little odd to say. Pick it up, play it for free, or do you, but know that this is the best Gears game and I can’t wait to play the sequel.

Final Score – 9.3

Gears 4 – Review

Action Movie Game

Have you played a Gears (of War) game before? Then you know what to expect. Honestly, if you like the other games you’ll enjoy this one too. Pretty simple actually.

Papa bless

I know this is an older game, but I just did my game pass with Microsoft and have a few free months to play thanks to 500$ I spend on a new CPU. I wanted to play Gears 5 but 4 was the only one of the games that I missed out on, figured it was best to go in order.

I’m really glad that I played this game. It went by really fast, must have only been about 8 hours or so. I forgot how much of a linear action combat game these Gears games are. There is almost no exploring, you just run through some corridors, get into a little combat arena, kill enemies and repeat.

Awesome scene

That is probably the biggest downside to this game, the repetition. While it was only 8 hours long, give or take, you literally do the same thing over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, the combat is fun and all, but they need at least one more system in here, at least the Uncharted games have climbing and exploring your environment a little. This is just the big dumb summer blockbuster with really good production value. It’s a bit bewildering that the games in this series have stuck so close to the initial formula from the first game, I’m looking forward to what the Coalition brought to the table in the sequel.

Nice hair
What the fuck is this about, before playing you have to see an ad…fucking hell

While the enemies will glitch out here or there and just stand still as you pummel their faces with bullets, the combat is still a blast. Everything just feels good to use, granted I stuck with my classic lancer and rotated my secondary weapon to whatever was around. My active reload ability was still spot on after all these years, I nail it almost every time which feels really good. Even when the bar gets tiny after doing it over and over, you just get that little click and it’s gravy.

Another thing that I appreciate about this game is that it knows it’s a game. When you kill the last guy in a fight you get a little chime, the same chime from the first game. That means you can move through the next barrier and on with your journey.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing?

I appreciated the way the game respected my time. It knows it’s a dumb action game. I couldn’t care less about learning more about the story, the little they gave me was just enough to keep my interest. I loved that Marcus was back, and I liked Kait and Del being there, it was a good time with good people. It is funny how all games like this, with a group of people going through as a team, start to all end up like the crowd around Nathan Drake who makes wise cracks all the time.

Gotta tune up that motion blur guys…shit’s a little off

For a game about 3 1/2 years old, it still looks good and ran great on my computer. I had no crashes, which is wonderful after playing Metro Exodus. I was averaging around 90 FPS with everything set to max and no resolution scaling on my 3440×1440 screen so that made me happy. I played the game with my Astro C40 controller and that all worked like a champ.

Getting it done with mechs.

Final Score -8.3

Just a good, fun 3rd-person action game. I didn’t even get into the multiplayer or hoard mode, just looking forward to booting up the sequel in a few minutes. I’d definitely run through the campaign again in a few years.

Nice benchmarking tools.

The Next Console War is Already Over

Here is my opinion, I’ll open it up right in front of you to see. I believe that the next “console wars” are already over, and Sony won. That’s a pretty shocking statement, I know. 

I don’t say this lightly or out of a sense of fandom for Sony or malice towards Microsoft (Nintendo doesn’t count either). I think there are some clear reasons why this is the case and that it might only affect this next generation of consoles. 

My theory is that, if you look back at last generation, it’s true that Microsoft went ahead with a steady lead as the preferred console for the majority of multiplatform releases, especially first-person shooters and playing online, which were a major selling point for the platform at the time. That advantage would later be chipped away by the first-party offerings that Sony started to roll out as the console matured and would eventually lead to the PS3 outselling the XBox 360 in total sales by the end of their lives. It never really felt like they had the lead mind you, most of the discussion stayed focused on 360 as they carried their earlier lead. Where it really started to change in that generation was at the end, Sony’s first party games kept hitting big and often and ended on a high note with The Last of Us. It started to show a weakness in the first party offerings Microsoft was putting out for their platform.

With that in mind, this current generation of PS4 and XBox S/X, is the one that I feel is determining the outcome of the next “war”. What I feel is the largest factor that is shaping what the next generation of gaming looks like from a winner/loser perspective is the digital marketplace of the current gen of systems. That combined with the backwards capability of the new consoles. 

Sony has been pretty horrible with their backwards capability of the PS4 while Microsoft has been going hard and have been spending the money to get their older games working on their consoles, it’s a major investment and a true value add to their ecosystem. I just feel like they still lost the war on this front, even with the poor effort of Sony as of this writing. Will the PS5 be backwards compatible with the PS4? Certainly it will, without a doubt. Will the PS5 be backwards compatible with the PS3? I’d bet on that being a no and I’d also bet that it won’t matter to the majority in the long run. The switch to digital in the current generation, along with the 106 million consoles Sony has sold of the PS4 means that the backwards compatibility that will really matter is the next gen being backward with the current gen. That’s what customers will really care about. They want to know that the digital games they purchased digitally for the PS4 or XBOX S/X will just work, and hopefully at a faster framerate. 

Microsoft has recently revealed that their games, for the first two years will not be focused on the next gen hardware specifically and will instead be focused on the whole line of current XBox systems. They also are focusing on releasing their games on PC which pushes people like me to never even consider buying one of their consoles when I could just play them all on my PC. 

Microsoft really needs to get their first party developers to push out some amazing games at a consistent pace. I still have no trust in 343 and what they can do with Halo, I still think their track record is spotty. Can Microsoft keep pushing out Gears games and think they’re selling consoles based on that fact alone? 

What does this all mean? If I had to place a bet I’d say that Sony sells 3 times the amount of consoles than Microsoft does, at least. That basically keeps the current sales of this generation to be the same as next. With Microsoft’s move to subscription based revenue streams, that will be more of the metric they depend on. I can see playing XBox games through their subscription on the Switch which would be a great move for them, if the streaming doesn’t suck that is, sorry Stadia (RIP). 

In the end, Sony will keep to the more traditional business of a new console and dominate the generation because of it. Microsoft, still playing catch-up, will sway into streaming and subscriptions to try and carve out a new market that they can find prosperity in.