P.N. 03 (short for Product Number 03) is a Gamecube-exclusive third person shooter that is absolutely oozing with style. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a whole lot of substance to go with all that style. Truthfully, it suffers from a lot of the same problems that GunValkyrie does in terms of game substance. The good news, however, is that P.N. 03 controls perfectly fine and has a learning curve that isn't steeper than a graph of American public debt since Reagan took office.
Graphically, it's a good looking game. Truthfully, I thought this Gamecube game looks better than GunValkyrie on the Xbox despite the Xbox being a considerably more powerful console (playing on a Wii via component cables, anyway; below is a screenshot at 1080p using Dolphin so you can see the full potential). It's also got a truly rockin' soundtrack. The music is so good that even your character starts feeling it; leave her idle for even a second, and she starts bobbing her head and tapping her foot. I'm also fairly sure that your character is Tracer's grandmother or something because Vanessa's booty was CLEARLY an inspiration for Tracer's booty. They're both just so perfect.
The combat feels fluid and great. Once you're facing an enemy, it locks on and leaves you to just hammer the A button until it dies, tapping L or R every now and then to dodge attacks. Some attacks - like enemy missiles - will follow you, making you either dodge by hitting L or R at the right moment or jump over them by hitting B at the right moment. Jump or dodge too early, and the missiles will just follow you and hit you anyway. There are a few very minor platforming sections, and they can get frustrating, but it's not like Army Men: Major Malfunction or the first Uncharted game where your character will just arbitrarily decide not to grab a ledge and kill you. The combat, however, is definitely game's strongest point.
Conversely, the game's weakest point is probably the level design. It just gets extremely repetitive extremely quickly, and that's what I meant when I said that it doesn't have the substance to compliment its style. There are two or three varieties of level layouts, but truthfully, they all start to feel the same after mission 3 or 4 save for the couple of levels that start you off outside before entering a building (which proceeds to look and feel exactly like every other level). They all pretty much consist of "Run into room and kill bad guys, run into next room and kill bad guys, run into next room and find it empty, run into next room and kill bad guys, run into next room and kill boss, win" ad nauseam. The gameplay is fun, so while monotonous, it never stops being enjoyable, but it's definitely the game's weakest aspect.
The story is also really lackluster. I'd comment more on it, but truthfully, I have no idea what it was about. Vanessa's a mercenary who is completing some job for an anonymous client (who is a total douchebag, by the way) and sends you in circles for 11 missions punctuated by a giant robot to blow up at the end. Beyond that, I have no clue what that game was about. There's supposedly some "dark past" that the back of the case talks about, but aside from the obvious that was hinted by the title of the game - being a clone or cyborg or some shit - I have no idea what that's supposed to be. Maybe it told me and I just got bored with the story too soon, but yeah, narrative here sucks. Blowing up robots is fun, though, so it balances.
It seems to be going for roughly $20ish on eBay right now, and I feel pretty good recommending it for those of you who enjoy third person shooters. If you're looking for a story-driven game or one with a lot of replay value, I'd either emulate or pass on this one. It's so short - it took me about 2 hours to finish - with such a lackluster story and minimal level variety that I really can't recommend anyone other than genre enthusiasts go out of their way to pick it up. I enjoyed my time with it, and while it's a good obscure game, I'm not sure I'd call it a hidden gem. Or like a hidden quartz crystal - pretty and cool to find, but not something to hunt for.
My Rating - C
I'm gonna go ahead and give you the tl;dr version up front because it's a pretty good summary of what I'm about to type in more detail - this game fucking sucks, you'd have a better time enjoying a Chlorox on the rocks.
Now then, time for the actual review. This won't be a long review because I want to hurry up and put this game behind me and repress the memory of ever having played it. GunValkyrie is what happens when you have a great idea and take a giant post-Taco Bell shit all over it. It's a third person shooter that puts a lot of emphasis on agility and aerial maneuvering. You've got a variety of environments and three weapons to switch between, and you get to slaughter gigantic alien bugs. That sounds cool, right? Like strapping a jetpack to Ninja Gaiden and mixing that with Earth Defense Force. The problem is that the missions are the most uninspired things ever, the story is so hollow and boring that I got to the end of the game having no idea what the game I just spent two nights playing was about, and it has LITERALLY the worst controls I've ever experienced.
Let's talk about the graphics. They're okay. They're not bad, given the raw power the Xbox had, they're nothing overly impressive. The audio design is downright lackluster. I don't even remember if there was music or not (and if there is music, that's NOT a good sign), and sound effects get really old really fast given the minimal variety of sounds you'll hear in the game.
The missions give the impression that the developers made the environments, characters, weapons, and plan for the actual gameplay before realizing that they hadn't even considered what you would actually DO in the game aside from "jump around and shoot shit." They're uninspired and shoehorned in with blatant disregard for coherence. They mostly consist of "Kill all of the enemies," "Kill all of Enemy Type A in the time limit," or "Kill all of the enemy spawners in the time limit." Like...why? Are these enemies attacking a frontier colony? Are we trying to acquire biological material to study in an attempt to identify weaknesses? No, we get none of that. "Go here and kill things." I joke about games being "America in space," but Jesus, we at least make up an excuse to go kill shit. The overall plot isn't any better. Something about some magic energy source that gave 22nd Century technology to the late 19th Century. The basically-worshipped-as-a-god scientist who discovered Bullshitium or whatever magic element they use for power disappears and you have to go find him or whatever, but the end of the game left me just as confused and bored as the very beginning. I've seen a more riveting story in the essays my freshmen write.
Now, let's address real crime against humanity - the controls. Jesus Christ, the controls. I though Shaq Fu had bad controls (and it does). I thought N64 and Dreamcast FPS had bad controls (and they do). Those look like flawless masterpieces of design compared to the abomination that is GunValkyrie's control scheme. First off, the cameras are inverted, and there's no option anywhere to change that. They also used the most god awful scheme for the control sticks (in addition to being inverted). The left stick moves your character. That much is pretty standard. The right stick controls your Y axis camera. Again, pretty standard, albeit inverted. Here's where it gets wonky. Your X axis camera is controlled with the left stick. Your right stick's left and right tweaks the aim about two or three pixels on either side, rendering it effectively useless (and making aiming almost impossible). Aiming is taken care of by a pseudo-useful auto aim system. If you're in range (which is only about half of your gun's actual effective range), it will lock onto the enemy most centered in your screen. And then it will immediately change targets if either of you move more than a centimeter. There's no way to actually LOCK on to a target, and it's next to impossible to follow a target because trying to turn your camera left or right stops you dead in your tracks and moves sluggish as all hell to boot. The other obnoxious thing about the controls is that it expects you to be PERFECT with your jetpack controls because that shit burns fuel faster than a damn Abrams.
Finally, there's the learning curve. It's not there. There's no curve. It's a straight damn vertical line. The tutorial covers less than modern teenagers' outfits, and they expect you to be a damn master by the second or third level. Get to the end of a 20 or 30 minute level and make one carless move and die against a boss? Hope you're ready to do the whole damn thing over again. Again, the controls are to blame for that gripe; I wouldn't mind having to start a level over after dying if the controls weren't insane, the jetpack a gas whore, and a quarter of the levels filled with some horribly corrosive acid.
This game hurt my feelings merely by existing. The only reason I didn't give up halfway through and play something that doesn't suck is because a friend sent me the game for free in exchange for my review on it, so I wanted to power through it for him. A word to the wise, though - if anyone ever says "Hey, I'll give you a copy of GunValkyrie for free if you play it and review it," say no. That price is way too steep. It's functional, and that and the lack of any major bugs are really the only reasons this isn't getting an F.
My Rating - D
Those of you who follow the retro gaming community are probably aware of these already, but for those who aren't, a new company called HD Retrovision has made component cables for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo. Since I already have an S-video cable for my Super Nintendo, I didn't feel it was worth $45 to get component cables, but I did dish out the $50 for the Sega Genesis cables plus the Model 1 adapter (I'll mention that adapter later). The Genesis has notoriously garbage video output quality through composite (and every console looks like garbage through RF), so I was quite excited to see how my Sega 32X and Sega CD games would look with the crispness of component video, especially after seeing what the HDMI treatment does for standard Genesis games with Hyperkin's Retron 5. I was not disappointed.
Some of you might be asking (because I got this question on the Racketboy forums) why I spent $50 for better quality Genesis video cables when I already have a Retron 5 I can use to play my Genesis games outputting HDMI and upscaled to 720p. The reason is two-fold. The first reason (and by far the bigger reason) is that the Retron 5 doesn't have 32X compatibility, and it obviously doesn't have Sega CD compatibility. Some of my favorite Genesis games aren't even for the core Genesis but for the Sega CD and Sega 32X add-ons, like Lethal Enforcers II and Star Wars Arcade, respectively. These component cables allow me to enjoy a clearer video signal with these games than the standard composite cables.
Now, my understanding of RGB is limited, so I might be mistaken with this next bit, but if my understanding is correct, these component cables take advantage of the Genesis RGB output abilities, something that we missed out on the United States since we never adopted the SCART output format (we opted for the slightly inferior S-video). However even without the quality boost that comes with RGB, the quality of the video output is SIGNIFICANTLY better using HD Retrovision's component cables than with your run-of-the-mill composite cables, and part of that is the nature of component cables - it splits the video signal into three parts rather than smashing it all together in one cable like composite does. Separated video signals means less smearing and bleeding means a better picture.
I tested these cables on every console that I own that uses the Genesis' physical pin format. So that everyone who's familiar with retro hardware knows what I'm working with, that includes a model 1 Sega Master System, a model 1 Sega Genesis with model 2 Sega CD and Sega 32X, a Neo Geo AES, and a Neo Geo CD. What I tested first was the most important thing - the Genesis/CD/32X monstrosity. On that, it works like a charm...mostly. The only problem I encountered was one that HD Retrovision had stated would occur months before launch - there's no sound. That's not to say that you can't get sound, so don't just write it off as a POS cable, but it takes just a little bit of extra work. If you want sound output when using these cables with a Genesis 1, you have two options. You could do the easier thing which is just run a 3.5 mm audio cable from the headphone jack on the front of the Genesis to the 3.5 mm audio port on the side of the component cords towards the end that plugs into the TV; or you could do what I did and buy a 3.5 mm-to-RCA cable here.
The reason that I went with the less convenient method is because I bought the cable after I learned about the audio issue but before I knew there would be a 3.5 mm port on the cables themselves to compensate for the issue. Either way, though, the effect is the same - audio from the Genesis. The only real difference is whether you use the two audio RCA plugs attached to the component cables or the two attached to the converter wire. Otherwise, it works great. I played around with a regular Genesis game, a 32X game, a CD game, and a 32X CD game just to cover my bases. The CD based games are always going to look somewhat like garbage (at least the FMV games) because of the crap quality of video CDs, but the ones that don't use FMV look great, and the Genesis and 32X games look absolutely phenomenal. I seriously can't recommend these cables highly enough. If you've got a Sega Genesis, you really owe it to yourself and to your console to get these cables and let your system shine.
The Sega Master System also worked like a charm. Do note, however, that these will only work for the model 1 Master System; the model 2 is not compatible at all because it only has the RF output port, not the requisite RCA output. For the model 1, however, it presents your games in a quality that you'll only match by using a power base converter on the Retron 5. Unfortunately, however, it doesn't work at all with the Neo Geo AES or the Neo Geo CD. I don't understand the technical reasons of why myself, but the plug won't fit into the systems at all. This is especially puzzling to me given that the regular Genesis/Master System composite cable fits them both no problem, but something about the RGB pinout isn't compatible. It's a shame, but it's not the end of the world; the Neo Geo CD has an S-video port on it, and almost all of the Neo Geo's games are cheaper on MVS than AES (I'll just have to deal with composite video when I want to play NAM-1975).
If you're a serious Sega enthusiast, you need this cable in your life. You seriously won't believe the quality difference it makes for your Genesis, Master System, Sega CD, and 32X games. The price is a bit steep for a retro system's A/V cord, I know, but trust me that it's worth the price if you want good picture quality. It can't be beat (except by the Retron 5 which, as I mentioned, doesn't help your 32X or CD games).
Also available on OSX
I've been meaning to play this game for quite a while. I've had it on my GOG account for a year or two, but I've just never gotten around to playing it. With the release of the GOTY edition of The Witcher III and my refusal to start a series in the middle, I figured it was finally time to fire up the game and dive into the world of Geralt of Rivia. And my feelings on the game are mixed.
First and foremost, the game feels dated. That's not, by default, a problem with the game. It's one of those games that you probably won't notice feels dated unless you've played or seen gameplay of the later games (I haven't played II or III, but I've seen gameplay). It's like the original Mass Effect; most people won't have much negative to say about the first Mass Effect game aside from the god damn Mako, but once you play Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3, you'll go back to the first one and think "Jesus Christ, how did I ever play this game?" That's the kind of dated that The Witcher feels like - it's not unplayable, and the game is still really fun once you get into it, but definitely feels like it's 8 years old.
You do, however, get a good bang for your buck. Being an older game and the first in a three game series, it's not terribly expensive these days, and you'll get a lot of gametime out of it. GOG Galaxy decided to stop tracking my playtime randomly halfway through and start up again just as randomly a few days later, so my playtime in the client isn't accurate, but I'd reckon I spent between 35 and 40 hours on the game. I didn't complete every side quest, but I'd say I definitely did more than half. Straight storyline, you'll probably get 25 or 30 hours out of the game; completionists will likely get 50+.
While the story is engaging (albeit a little slow to get going) and the characters themselves are interesting, the plot's biggest weakness - and this is a MAJOR weakness IMO - is the presentation. The writing for the dialogue is....okay....and the character animations are decent although not particularly convincing. The big problem is the voice acting. Dear god, the voice acting is atrocious. There will be parts that feel totally fine and like they got actually competent actors to do the dialogue, but then you'll get back to Geralt or Dandelion or one of the incidental characters, and you can just tell that the guy was reading straight from a script with zero fucks to give about the job. And that's really a shame because it seriously puts a damper on an otherwise immersive world. It also doesn't help that, outside of major plot-centric characters, you'll see the same four or five faces over and over and over and over again on countless different characters throughout the game. That's also kind of immersion-killing.
Mechanically, my biggest problems are the crafting and quest tracking. The crafting system - especially the weapon modifications with the blacksmiths - are extremely counterintuitive and have a steep learning curve. I never did figure out how to get the blacksmith to modify my weapons instead of just sell me other weapons or buy my extras. The quest tracking works well about 70% of the time, but the problem there is that the quests that it allows you to track (which is, I'd estimate, about 40% of them) sends you to a pre-set waypoint that doesn't necessarily indicate where your objective ACTUALLY is. I don't mean like it sends you to a dungeon and you have to scour the dungeon for the objective - that's fine. I mean like your objective is to talk to Dude A, so it sends you to his house, but then you find out that Dude A is off gallivanting fuck knows where between noon and midnight so you have to either search high and low in hopes of stumbling upon this ass hole or trek back to the other side of the city just to take a nap and then go back to the OTHER side of the city to talk to him. It's not game-breaking by any means, but it is extremely irritating.
Now despite the crap I've given the game, I did thoroughly enjoy it. There are some serious performance issues that you need to iron out or deal with, though. There's no option for V-sync in the in-game video settings, and - at least on my monitor - there was MAJOR screen tearing that actually did render the game unplayable for me. Fortunately Nvidia's control panel let me force V-sync for all my programs across the board, but if you don't have something like that with your video card, you're kind of SOL. Even after fixing the screen tearing issue, I'd have some random stutters and frame rate drops as well as not-infrequent crashes (roughly one or two per 5 hour gaming session). Nothing that totally kills the experience, but it definitely didn't run as well as I'd have liked, and I had to get into the habit of saving more frequently than normal. I'm not sure what caused my issues, if it was just poor optimization in general or if it's finicky with Windows 10 or what, but a GTX 980 shouldn't struggled to keep a solid 60 fps in a game from 2008.
All in all, I'd definitely recommend The Witcher to fans of Western RPGs, but be aware that it's only available on PC; the console port was scraped for the first game. Also, for those of you with children who may see you playing, the Enhanced Edition on GOG has the censorship removed, so in addition to the usual fantasy game tits, there are definitely several furry tree nymph and vampire-lady vaginas with noticeable vulvae. Be forewarned.
My Rating - B
This is a 3DS download game that came highly recommended from a number of different people and sources, so I had high hopes going into this one. It's definitely one of the most unique 3DS eShop games, and it's got a lot of charm in a fun, child-like adventure sort of way. The game is part TCG and part third person adventure. The gameplay consists of controlling a little kid as he goes around his new town meeting people and figuring out what's going on with the monsters that appear in town every Friday. Along the way, you collect cards that you use to play Monster Cards with the other kids in town (it's basically rock-paper-scissors fleshed out into a full game).
Without giving too much of the story away, you play as the son of the town's new dry cleaners in a town whose main draw is the television studio where monster TV shows are filmed, and every Friday afternoon, monsters appear right outside the town. The different quests are called "episodes," and some will be finished almost as soon as they begin while others may last from the very beginning of the game until the very end (which will probably take you roughly 3 hours).
It's a very unusual game, and it really does give you feeling of being 9 years old again with the wacky adventures that kids that age conjure up for themselves. Despite the fact that I have a lot of admiration for the game and think it's an excellent addition to the 3DS digital library, I didn't care much for it. The Monster Card games were entertaining, but the overall game and story left me feeling very "meh." I think the biggest reason for that is that I have a hard time getting into stories that don't have meaningful character development, and while the game is well made, the characters are - with only a couple of exceptions - very flat. That's not necessarily a bad thing. You don't HAVE to have fleshed out character development to have a good game. For me, however, it's a bit of a turn off, and I think that's why I didn't enjoy the game as much as most people do.
If you've got a 3DS, I'd absolutely recommend giving it a download. It's not all that expensive, and it is a very chill, relaxing experience. Just don't go into it expecting a deep story or complex character development.
My Rating - C
Formerly available on Switch, Xbox One and Windows. Now available nowhere.
Overwatch is a prime example of what makes Blizzard such an amazing developer. They took a genre - online FPS - that has become so bland and overused ad nauseam that they all mostly feel the same, and they made it look and feel fresh, new, and energetic. Also setting Overwatch apart from the hoard of me-too FPS releases in recent years is the fact that it's actually colorful rather than a mix of bland and sickly desaturated browns and greys. That alone is exceptionally rare in shooters today.
One thing that really sets Overwatch apart is the diverse roster of characters, all of whom truly do feel unique. The two that I, personally, enjoy playing the most are Bastion and Phara with D.Va as a close third, though I do pull out Soldier 76 and Reaper from time to time to change things up a little for me. I'm not very good, obviously - it's an FPS, and I'm HORRIBLE at FPS games (video games in general, really, but especially FPS) - but DAMN, is it fun. I don't play it super often as I'm much more of a story driven gamer, but get a friend or two in a party, and it's unparalleled.
You've got something like 20 or 25 characters (don't remember, too lazy to Google) to choose from spread out over five (I think) general classes, but each character feels completely distinct from the others. Every character has two special abilities and an ultimate ability. Bastion, for example, is normally a giant robot but can turn into a stationary turret with far superior firepower and ammo capacity with one of his special moves. His other special move is the ability to repair himself, and his ultimate move turns him into a tank with INCREDIBLE firepower for a short time. Bastion is, obviously, best suited for either defense or slow, methodical advances.
There are also a number of game modes that cycle. You've got your basic point control conquest where one team defends and one team attacks, a spin on Domination where both teams vie for control a single control point, and an escort mode where one team has to escort a payload to the end of the map and the other team has to try to stop them. They're all similar enough in objective so that it doesn't feel like a drastic shift, but they're also just different enough to keep things from feeling stale (looking at you, Call of Duty).
Now, I've heard a lot of people make comparison with Battleborne, but since I haven't played that, I can't speak to that. What I CAN say is that this is an absolutely phenomenal game, and anyone who enjoys multiplayer and has a Switch, PS4, Xbox One, or gaming PC needs to give Overwatch a try. If I, of all people, am recommending an online-only shooter, then you know it's got to be good.
But we know the real reason the internet likes this game.
Also available on Windows
Assault Suit Leynos is not a long game by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun game. It's not an easy game once you get towards the end, but it is an accessible game. Because this game took me only 2 hours or so to beat, I'm not going to have a whole great deal to share about it, but as it kind of flew under the radar for the most part, I want to give it a quick plug here.
This game is a straight remake of the Genesis original (called Target Earth in North America). Fortunately it didn't get the censorship treatment this time around (you get to see your BFF burn to a crisp in the atmosphere in this release). Now I've never actually played Target Earth, so I can't compare the two. I did, however, get a good bit of enjoyment out of this remake. You've got three difficulties from which to choose - Easy, Normal, and Hard - and it's forgiving with the extra lives (in that they're infinite). There are also checkpoints spread relatively liberally throughout the levels, so if you die after beating a sub-boss, you can start up after that boss. This is ESPECIALLY helpful on the last level which has six sub-bosses, then the final boss, then an additional three phase sub-boss just to fuck with you.
There are eight stages in the game, and the last level is a BITCH. Even on easy it kicked my ass up and down the street. I mean, granted, I'm bad at video games, but still, it's hard as shit, man. I'll briefly break down why it's tough in the spoiler tag for those interested.
You start off having to fight a mini boss, then you have fight two mini bosses (there's an undisclosed time limit on these, too). Then you fight another mini boss followed by a fifth mini boss. Then you go through this maze area with turrets shooting you from every angle and then you fight a stronger version of one of the previous mini bosses. Then you fight the final boss and get a little scene or whatever, and then SURPRISE it's a seventh mini boss, but this one has three phases. Then you're done and you storm off to blog about it.
SPOILERS ARE OVER
It's a worthwhile game for those who enjoy horizontal arcade shooters, especially with its $20 price tag. There's not an enormous amount of content or replay value, but it is super cool to see a remake of a 26 year old Genesis game get a retail release on the PlayStation 4.
My Rating - A
So the PlayStation 4 Pro was officially announced today alongside the PlayStation 4 Slim. The Pro is going to launch for $399 (so really $400) in November. Now before today, I was hardcore in favor of what was then known by the codename PS4 Neo (or PS4K since 4K resolution was supposed to be its big purpose). What changed? The announced features, or rather, what WASN'T announced.
First off, let's hit the hardware specs. I'm no tech expert, so I might be mistaken with some of my conclusions, but from looking at the specs, it doesn't look like nearly as much of an upgrade as many of us were initially led to believe (which, admittedly, was based on rumors rather than confirmed sources). Certainly the GPU has received a huge upgrade; while it's still the same base graphics chip, it's a much more powerful version, allowing for somewhere around 4.2 teraflops as opposed to the PS4's current 1.8 teraflops. That's certainly a huge boost. From what I've seen (correct me if I'm wrong about this), however, the CPU and RAM are staying the same. If there are upgrades to those two, they're not reflected in the specs lists I've seen. That's my big disappointment; a stronger GPU is great, but since some of the guys in Sony working on it have said it was made in part to allow for better performance from the PlayStation VR headset (which I am ALL kinds of hyped about), I had hoped for a boost to memory and processing power as well as graphical prowess. No doubt it will still help PS VR, but how much? Since I don't have a 4K TV yet, the upscaling is a bit of a moot point, especially since I highly doubt those specs are capable of pulling off native 4K, especially not at any great framerate. It should give us solid 1080p60, which is great, but I don't think an extra 30 frames per second is worth $400.
Now here's my BIG gripe and honestly the biggest reason that I'm holding off for a while instead of pre-ordering - storage space. Yes, it has a 1 TB HDD. Whatever, that's nothing when every other game takes 50 damn gigabytes to install. I have 2 TB of data on my PS4 right now, and I've got a NUMBER of games pre-ordered. This could all be fixed, however, with one very simple solution - let me use a damn external hard drive. The Xbox One allows it. Hell, the Wii U allows it, and it took me almost two years to fill up just 32 GB on that thing. The only thing the PS4 can do with an external HDD right now is back-up data and store images and videos; you can't play games from an external. I have a 5 TB HDD in my PS4 right now because I'm using Nyko's data bank to allow for cheaper (and higher capacity) 3.5" desktop HDDs instead of the 2.5" laptop HDDs the PS4 (and PS3 for that matter) are designed to use. Since they're using a new case for the PS4 Pro, I'm willing to bet my left kidney that my data bank won't work. If Nyko releases a data bank for the PS4 Pro, then yeah, I'll probably pick up a Pro for the extra horsepower with 1080p display and PlayStation VR, but if I'm starting off with twice as much data as the stock HDD can hold, no thanks. It's not worth that extra expense and headache for me.
Now it's puzzling enough why Sony won't just allow full external HDD support - I can see literally no advantage to the omission of that feature - but what really puzzles me (despite being of literally zero importance to me personally) is the decision not to put a UHD Blu-ray drive in the PS4K. It can upscale to 4K, sure, and it can stream 4K videos, but it can't read 4K UHD Blu-ray movies. Wasn't 4K the entire point of this new hardware revision? I mean, the only reason people bought a PS3 when it launched was because it was a cheap Blu-ray player. There are a lot of people who, I'm sure, would are on the fence and would be pushed over to buy one if it included that, but for people for whom gaming is a secondary consideration after multimedia use, Sony has just given those potential customers a great reason to buy an Xbox One S instead of a PlayStation 4 Pro - the Xbox One S, despite being quite a bit weaker than the PS4 Pro, can play 4K Blu-rays. What the hell, Sony?
So yeah, I'm going to be holding off for at LEAST couple months on jumping to the PS4 Pro. I'll definitely make the move eventually (since I plan to get a 4K TV at some point in the not-too-distant future), but unless the standard PS4's performance with PS VR is just painfully craptastic, it won't be anytime soon.
Also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, OSX, and Linux
SOMA is a game that I thought looked neat but wasn't really sold on enough to actually spend money on it. When it got announced as the early unlock game in September's Humble Monthly Bundle, I figured I'd give it a go seeing as how I've heard some good things about it. Those things were absolutely correct, and I am not disappointed.
SOMA is a horror game that feels very much like the love child of Bioshock and Alien: Isolation. It has the isolated "everything's going to kill me" feeling while being completely alone like Alien: Isolation, and it has the oceanic seafloor setting of Bioshock (except less Randian dystopia and more shit-hit-the-fan research center). You play as a Canadian guy named Simon who goes in for an experimental brain scan and wakes up in a strange place that - tragically - has neither maple syrup nor professional ice hockey anywhere to be found.
I won't go into much detail because the plot is REALLY fantastic, and I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't played the game yet, but you spend the next nine hours or so going from section to section in this research complex trying to figure out what happened to you, how you got there, and what the fuck is going on. For 99% of the game, you have no weapon (you get one weapon in the middle of the game, and it breaks as soon as you kill the enemy you have to loot something from), so you spend the game sneaking around (or, in my case, running around like a bitch screaming bloody murder) trying to remain undetected by the enemies. With my propensity for stealth, I was sorely tempted to pull up the Benny Hill theme on my phone and just let it play on repeat while I played the game.
Without spoiling anything, the game's strongest point - even with its incredible atmosphere, well designed setting, and interesting plot - are the existential philosophical questions it poses to you throughout the story. What is it to be alive? What is it merely to exist? Was Descartes right when he said "I think, therefore I am," or is there more to "life" than that? Where is the boundary between man and machine? Does the soul exist, and if it does, what is a soul? I cannot recommend this game highly enough. It's an extremely tense horror romp and an exceptionally cerebral experience.
My Rating - S
Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, and Windows
Attack on Titan is a game that follows the first season of the show, and it does that part extremely competently. Very few liberties were taken aside from adding side missions to lengthen gameplay and adding some dialogue for NPCs in your camp.
I really wasn't sure what to expect from this as I've typically been fairly unimpressed with licensed games based on movies or TV shows (looking at you, every Inuyasha game ever made), and I'd heard some mixed things about this game. In my opinion, anyway, the nay-sayers are dead wrong, though. While not a masterpiece, this is a DAMN good action game, and it's a damn good Attack on Titan game. I was very surprised just how closely to the anime the game stayed. That's not always the case when you have something "recreate" a work from another medium (like how the Jack Nicholson version of "The Shining" basically took a shit on the book and did whatever the fuck it wanted). Not the case here; while it's been a year or so since I've watched the anime, I didn't notice any major scenes omitted, and nothing of importance was added that didn't appear in the anime. My ONLY complaint in that regard was that it seemed like "abnormal" titans were FAR more numerous than normal titans, and that's really the opposite of how it ought to be.
tThe gameplay is a lot like Dynasty Warriors except instead of having a couple thousand enemies your size, you're fighting several dozen enemies between 5 and 100 times your size. Each titan has five points you can attack - either leg, either arm, and the nape (the only way to actually kill them). For most titans, you can go straight for the nape if you want and kill them quickly, but most will have at least one limb that will yield a crafting material if you destroy that limb first which can be used to develop near gear or improve your current gear. The combat is a LOT of fun, and all in all, performance is pretty good. There are some pretty major framerate drops in huge battles when you've killed two or three titans in a few seconds and they're all smoking as they vanish at the same time, but aside from that (when you can't even see what's going on anyway), the game stays at a fairly consistent 30 fps.
The complaint I typically saw online and the one that I can't really argue *too* much with was the omni-directional movement control. In theory, it's easy enough to use; press the square button, and you shoot lines out of your gear that latch onto whatever trees or walls are around you, and it propels you through the air. It's like a Spiderman game if Spiderman games were actually fun. The problem is that this system could have stood to have a little more care in development. Not infrequently, if you're on a forest mission, you'll end up flying straight into a tree, sending you back to the ground (and making you a very convenient snack for any nearby titan). If you're on an urban mission, you will FAR too often be trying to ODM your way over a building to get to an objective and just find yourself slamming your head into a tiny little sliver of awning at the roof over and over and over again. Nine times out of ten, the ODM system works great and it feels awesome (again, like if a Spiderman game were actually fun), but god damn if that one time out of ten isn't infuriating as fuck.
All in all, this is an EXCELLENT action game, especially for fans of the anime. In my opinion, it's well worth the $60 asking price. The main campaign alone will keep you entertained for about 9 or 10 hours depending on how many missions you have to retry, and the optional survey missions add another 6 or 7 hours to the experience. If you like action games where you kill GIANT shit, do not skip this game. If you like Attack on Titan, DEFINITELY do not skip this game. The perpetually derpy look on the titans' faces is just an added bonus.
My Rating - A
Also available on PlayStation Vita
I absolutely adore the Hatsune Miku games. I first played DIVA F 2nd when I picked it up on a whim when I got my Vita because it looked cute and weeby. I've been hooked ever since, and it's become my second favorite rhythm game series (after Theatrhythm). While I still think F 2nd was better (mostly because of song selection), DIVA X is a fantastic addition to the series.
For those not in-the-know, Hatsune Miku is a vocaloid program - basically a digital singer that lets users compose songs to be sung by the program. Somewhere along the line, somebody at Sega said "Hey, let's make a rhythm game with these vocaloid characters!" Weebs worldwide rejoiced and began throwing money. Now the blue haired beauty finally makes her way to the PlayStation 4 (although it's also available on Vita). There's not a whole great deal to say about this game. In terms of gameplay, it's a fairly standard rhythm game, though the outfits and accessories do add a bit of variety since the combinations you choose have different effects on your score multiplier.
The core game is divided into five "clouds," or types of songs - Classic, Cute, Elegant, Cool, and Quirky. Each cloud has - IIRC - five songs plus an finale track with four or five additional songs shortened and mixed that unlocks once you finish the five base songs. The Classic cloud has a second of these mixes that you unlock once you accumulate enough points in the post-game, but I've not done that quite yet. For each song, you have four difficulties; Easy and Normal are unlocked from the start, and Hard and Extreme unlock once you finish each cloud.
I only have one real complaint with the game right now - the omission of the song "Clover Club." I get it, you can't just put the same songs in every game because then no one will buy your game (unless you're making a Mario platformer). Clover Club is - hands down - my favorite Hatsune Miku song, though, so I desperately hope that gets released as DLC at some point. I don't know why I love it so much. It's just so cute and catchy, and Miku's dancing is so damn ADORABLE in that song. The lack of Clover Club cost you a Nep, Miku. Sorry.
My Rating - A
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.