Doom Eternal First Impressions – I made a video!

Doom Eternal First Impressions

Doom Eternal has the tag line ‘Rip and Tear’. I play ‘Sticky Bomb and Pray’!

So I have had some start/stop video experiments that I have shared in the past. Today, there is another 🙂 Rather than try to write up how I feel about Doom Eternal, I thought I would do a video of my Early Impressions!

My plan was to play 15-20 minutes of a game for the first time, and give my live first impressions and reactions. What do you know – even with prep, that didn’t work out quite as well as I hoped! Doom Eternal’s soundtrack in particular turned out to be a challenge. Life finds a way indeed! 🙂

You can watch the video below, expand it up to full screen and all the usual stuff. You can also go over to my YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/johnhqldplaysgames if you have trouble casting or want to leave a like/dislike and a comment. Feedback is appreciated!

So today, let me introduce you to my first ‘First Impressions’ game video, where I sit back and enjoy Doom Eternal 😀

Slightly Extended Impressions

Once I had played through the above, I was actually a little sad that I stopped recording. Not that I wanted to make a longer video, but because I found out I was only a little distance from another really cool secret!

I discovered another secret only a few minutes after finishing up my Thoughts in the video. And this secret had me grinning like crazy!

Doom Eternal has cheat codes that you can find in the secret areas!

Doom Eternal Cheat Codes Found
This is such a great idea. And I had my original Doom collection on such disks!

I haven’t tried messing around with them yet, but I think these are a great idea. Plenty of times I would fire up the original DOS Doom games, throw on invincibility and all guns, and just blast away for a bit on fun for a little while.

Doom Eternal is going to let me do the same thing, and use these overpowered features to let you explore the map more as well!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Gaming at Home – Part 2: Consoles – PlayStation or Xbox?

The Heavy Hitters

Be prepared for an answer you might not be expecting

So everyone hears about the ‘Console Wars’ every few years. The apparent winner is the console that sells more consoles.

Like all statistics, this can be a good indicator and very misleading. The Xbox 360, for example, got a sales boost with early adopters especially having to buy a second console after the ‘Red Ring of Death‘.

Now before you jump on me for being a PlayStation fanboy (which I have already admitted I am), I will always agree Xbox 360 won that generation. Not because of sales numbers though. In my opinion, it won on the strength of its gaming experience.

The PlayStation 3 was an incredible technical achievement. The Cell processor was ahead of its time in many ways, and capable of computational feats that only enterprise level processors could rival.

The achievement of the Cell processor was, unfortunately, paired with ‘interesting’ decisions from Sony. The cell processor made developing games for the PlayStation 3 difficult even for Sony backed development studios. These difficulties translated to strange performance comparisons with the Xbox 360. Not only that, but there were also many PlayStation only bugs and titles that had to be cancelled because it was too hard to build well.

Xbox 360 vs PS3
One was a technical powerhouse. The other worked better most of the time.

Why am I going on about old consoles? Gamers (fanboys in particular) can have a selective memory span. Every piece of tech has problems, and consoles are amalgamations of lots of technologies – both hardware and software.

I loved my PS3, and the exclusive titles were so much fun! I don’t regret my PS3 at all, and I wish mine still worked for some of the games. Wihle I have fond memories, the hard truth is in terms of performance it was generally better to get the Xbox version for a more consitent gaming experience.

Remember – while the internet hype/consenses have degrees of truth, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily true for you. Looking at a lot of the PS5/Xbox Series X headlines, think about last generation where the ‘technically inferior’ console was the better gaming experience. Numbers aren’t everything.

OK, history lesson delivered. What has this got to do with today?

My Xbox One S is my first Xbox console. I played the Resident Evil 3 demo first on it. I am having almost as much fun on it as my PS4 Pro. Why am I having more fun on my PS4? Because I have more of the games I want to play on the PlayStation.

That’s it. Graphically, both run nicely. I haven’t played many cross-platform titles, but that will be changing with the Resident Evil 3 demo. That’s why I am using a title that isn’t for everyone in the comparison pictures below – it’s the only game I have to compare them.

Can you pick which console is which? I am using a section with reflections to help.

Resident Evil 3 Raccoon City Demo Capture 1
See those reflections? That is a simple take on what Ray Tracing does, and neither console supports it!
Resident Evil 3 Raccoon City Demo Capture 2
Both photos were taken with the internal capture capabilities. I didn't match the brightness unfortunately.

On the left is the PS4 Pro, on the right the Xbox One S. Yes one is sharper, but I think that is more the capture software of the PS4.

Bottom line though, don’t they both look amazing? Playing the demo on both systems was amazing. The only real difference is radio chatter comes from the speaker in the DualShock 5. It sounds silly, but this was a nice touch.

From a gaming experience perspective, it’s hard to go wrong with either choice. That’s right – it doesn’t matter from a hardware perspective if you choose PlayStation or Xbox. What does matter is that the console has the games you want to play.

Want to play God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man or other PlayStation exclusives? Get a PlayStation. Really want to play Halo? Get an Xbox. That’s it. Hardware-wise, that’s all you need to know about the consoles.

That’s it? Buy the one I want? What kind of advice is that?

If that were the end of this little piece, it would be a very unsatisfactory ending. Also, I didn’t say buy the one you want – I said if you’re going to play certain games, you need to buy a specific console. There is still a lot that needs to be looked at and evaluated.

All I am trying to say now is there is no real way you can make the wrong choice from a hardware perspective. However, the console choice is only ever the start of the story.

There are many other factors to take into consideration, and now at the dawn of the generation crossover, you can look at these factors with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight rather than hoping you picked the right crystal ball.

Subscription Services

It doesn’t matter what console you choose, I do recommend getting there respective online gaming subscription. You need to if you want to play online, but when looking past that requirement, there are different pros and cons.

PlayStation Plus
Microsoft Game Pass

PlayStation Plus gives you a couple of free games a month, store discounts, and access to cloud saves just in case. PlayStation Plus will set you back AUD$80 a year if you pay upfront, or AUD$12 a month if you renew monthly for a total of $144 a year.

Over on Xbox, technically you need Xbox Live, or Gold, or Live Gold – it gets confusing. I keep talking about Game Pass. This is the service that made me finally buy an Xbox. Game Pass Ultimate is more expensive than PlayStation Plus, but you get a lot more included for the price.

Game Pass Ultimate is Game Pass for Xbox and PC combined with Xbox Gold (the Xbox version of PlayStation Plus) all wrapped up in one. So for AUD$16 a month, you get online multiplayer, 2 free games, and access to over one hundred titles you can play for free while on Game Pass.

Even better, the Game Pass games include all Microsoft Studios Games released at the same time as their retail versions. Want to play all of the Halo games? The Master Chief collection is waiting, and Halo Infinite will be available straight away.

So while Game Pass Ultimate is more expensive, having the ability to play hundreds of games for no extra is phenomenal value. PlayStation does have the PlayStation Now service, but here in Australia it’s not an option for us so it’s not a fair comparison.

Virtual Reality

PlayStation Virtual Reality
There is a lot of extras required to play VR, not just a headset. Kits like this are the best way to go.

I love VR, but I will be the first to qualify that the tech is still trying to find it’s feet. The PSVR is a lot of fun, and I am waiting to set it back up properly in the new house. I miss Beat Saber! :p

As much as I love VR, it is an expensive experiment. I am not trying to tell you to stay away from it – if you are interested, that’s awesome! But there are only a handful of what I would call great VR games. Everything else are good VR ‘experiences’.

With the introduction of the Oculus Quest, PSVR (PlayStation Virtual Reality) isn’t the cheapest way to get into VR gameplay anymore. Also, while the PS5 will be compatible with the current PSVR, there is a newer revision coming, and the PSVR showed it’s age tech-wise even when first released.

So while I wouldn’t recommend VR as a must-have accessory today, if you want to experience VR on a console PlayStation is your only choice without going Oculus Quest or a PC system capable of VR gaming.

Must-Have Accessories

Second controllers, Charging Stations, Vertical Mounts – the accessory list for both consoles barring PSVR is almost identical, both in functionality and costs.

Overall, I would recommend a second controller when you buy a system. Even if you live alone, you never know when you might need a charged controller after a long session. Even better, you don’t know when you might have someone over to share a game with!

There are lots of different levels of controller available, from cheap budget wired versions to almost console priced ‘Pro’ controllers. I would buy the standard controller that came with your system. i.e. if you go PlayStation, get a DualShock 4. If you go Xbox, get an Xbox controller. Both cost about the AUD$90 mark and both controllers will work the same if you switch.

Controllers
Yes you can do better, but with the stock controllers you know what you are getting for your dollar

If you do go Xbox, I would also add a rechargeable battery pack and charger to your accessory list. You can get combos like the Energizer Xbox One Dual Charger for AUD$50, and this gives you two charge packs with white and black backs to match your controller with a charging stand. Why would I do this? Xbox still uses AA batteries for their controllers and buying those adds up in both cost and waste.

There are a lot of other things you can upgrade your console with, like new bigger hard drives (even SSDs) and the like. When you start looking at costs like this, I would suggest a reliable external USB 3 hard drive for simplicity. Both systems let you install games to an external drive, and the performance is comparable to the internal storage. I would only worry about that when your installed library grows down the track.

Xbox One Charger Stand
Because of the AA battery requirement, kits like this are better for Xbox users

The big question – do you upgrade to the PS4 Pro or Xbox Series X?

This is the tricky one. Do you go the ‘base’ experience or the ‘unrivalled power’ of the upgraded units?

The Heavy Hitters
Do you need to go big straight away? Remember - wanting isn't needing :p

Will you be playing on a 4K TV? If not, then I would seriously weigh up spending the money on the beefier consoles. You will generally get smoother frame rates with the Pro and One X, but playing with the base system is still a great experience.

I play with my Xbox One S on my 4K TV in 4K mode, and only once have I been tempted to drop to 1080p for frame rate issues. Playing The Outer Worlds and the Resident Evil 3 Demo in 4K on my Xbox One S was fun and worry free, even after coming back to it from my PC.

As I said, if you do experience frame rate stutters, you can just drop the output resolution. 1080p on my TV still looks beautiful, but your TV may be different. I only see the image problems when using 720p and lower resolutions. Remember, 4K gaming is gorgeous visually, but it means outputting 4 x 1080p screens worth of pixels at once, and all but ultra-high-end PCs can do this reliably. Even those systems will have issues at times, so don’t be too hard on your console if it has problems now and then!

There is one exception to this rule for me. If you are going to buy a PSVR, I will recommend the Pro over the base PS4. Playing games like Beat Saber on the base PS4 is fine, but if you get into beefier games like Skyrim VR and even Moss, more people will suffer motion sickness on the base system than on the Pro. Why? The Pro can push out more frames, giving a smoother experience.

Once you get past the 4K TV question, most of the other items kind of melt away. If your TV supports HDR, your system will turn on the nice lighting features for you. There are factors you would have heard like Input Lag and Response Times, but this has everything to do with the TV and little to do with the console. I will talk about all of these things when I speak about monitors in future articles.

So what do you think I should get?

Today, unless you know you wanted specific PS4 titles, the Xbox One S with Game Pass Ultimate is the best deal around. For a known fixed price, you can play all of the major Xbox exclusives without spending any more cash.

There is also the advantage of Microsoft saying there will be no Xbox Series X exclusives for the first two years of the new console. Now, this doesn’t mean there won’t be new titles, and Microsoft has also said that if you get the Xbox One version of any of their games, you will upgrade to the Xbox Series X version automatically. So you know with certainty that if you buy a console today, you won’t be missing out on new titles for a while still having a vast catalogue of games to play in the meantime.

If you have a 4K TV and want the most out of your console, now that the current generation is ending the Xbox One X will be coming up on sale making the upgrade cheaper if you time it right.

But again – unless you want to play the other consoles exclusive games, it is very hard to go wrong. The only way to have a ‘better’ experience is going PC, and that involves more money and a bit more tweaking on your part.

Yes – PC gaming tends to involve more involvement on your part than just playing games! That is why I recommend either console if you just want to get into gaming. Both consoles are a solid entry choice, and will let you enjoy thousands of hours of gameplay.

Soon, I will start talking about the world of PC gaming and why it is a rabbit hole of chocies to tackle.

But that, as they say, is for a future series. 🙂

Questions?

If you have any questions or discussion points, jump in the Disqus below or comment on Facebook or Twitter @JohnHQLD! I would love to hear from you 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The next big video gaming choice: Where do you want to play?

Switch on a plane

It’s not quite time to be talking hardware – there are other things to keep in mind still

Welcome back! So now you know we will be looking at the first step of hardware choices. Where do you want to play?

Most people will be saying “At home”. The gaming den is the dream of gamers everywhere. But this isn’t always the case. Spend a lot of time on public transport? That time could be spent gaming! Or maybe you catch up with friends for a LAN party regularly? Some people even need to move on short notice, and large gaming desktops computers do not like being transported easily.

This goes with your mindset. This is probably the most significant overlooked criteria I see when people look at what they want to do. It’s great to know you want total immersion, but if most of your free time is when you are out and about gaming on a desktop is all but out.

Switch on a plane
My Switch has helped with many a plane flight, both during and before! Image Source: Nintendo

There is no right answer here, it’s all about the right solution for you. So let’s have a look at some starting choices we will be building on as Talking Tech continues.

Some solid starting choices

Looking at all of the available games is daunting. Knowing what you want to play is even worse. Different people have different tastes. I love RPGs, and I am lucky that I can play them on almost anything. But how do you know what you want to play? 

Unfortunately, it’s like movies, books, music, or even cars – until you try them, you don’t know for sure. And you can’t try them until you make an investment. Of course, if you know someone that plays games and can try them out on their machines, it helps. But it’s not always that easy.

So if you are looking at playing a wide range of games, below I have some reliable starting places that you can look at as a safe starting choice. 

These aren’t recommendations – don’t look at them as such. But these will let you look at some options and the costs involved to get started from scratch and a feel for budgets, and we can build from here going forward.

At home gaming only

Bang for buck starting out, I would suggest an Xbox One S and Game Pass subscription. You can play hundreds of games for $15 a month (for ultimate), keep some freebies and try lots of different types of games.

Why do I recommend Ultimate Game Pass? It comes with Gold, which gives you free games each month for the extra $5. Plus right now, I can crossplay games with my desktop!

If the game is a Microsoft Game Studios one, you can even play it at launch on Game Pass. Look at spending AUD$400 + Game Pass subscription to get a good starter and excellent gaming experience.

Xbox One S Starter Pack
Xbox has starters and the digital only console. Every saving has some form of extra price.

You would have seen many headlines that PlayStation ‘won’ this console generation. While true in sales, that’s not really the whole story. I prefer PlayStation as a platform (I am a PlayStation fanboy), and it has more exclusive games than Xbox. That alone doesn’t make it the best console out there, but you can’t go wrong either.

PlayStation provides a great gaming experience, and you can usually get deals on the base PS4 and a couple of games for $500. Add $80 a year for PlayStation Plus, and you will get to keep a couple of new games each month as a part of the deal. If you want to dip your toes into VR as well, PlayStation is your console choice.

Today, you get access to some fantastic exclusive titles as well – more about that later.

PS4 Starter Pack
Starter packs are a great way to save a little money, but you still spend more

You can’t really go wrong on either platform unless you must play a title exclusive to one over the other. Have to play Halo? Don’t buy a PS4.

Looking for the Switch? Well, I consider the Switch a portable, even in docked mode. Check out ‘Gaming on the go’ for some Switch thoughts 🙂

For more power, choice and flexibility you would be buying/building a PC. You can get a system with a GTX 1660Ti/RX 5600 graphics card that will rip through games at 1080p for around AUD$2,000. This includes a monitor, keyboard etc. – the computer itself will be around the $1500 – $1600 mark. You can still take advantage of Game Pass, plus have access to Steam Sales and GoG.com which has great titles for much less than the console equivalent. Even Epic gives away a free game a week.

Does a system like that have all RTX this and 4K HDR that? No. But then again, I haven’t talked about the PlayStation Pro or the Xbox One X either. The highest performing graphic cards cost AUD$1400+ by themselves!

Basic Gaming PC
No flashy lights and bling, but works well (once you put the side panel back on :p )

Everything I have outlined here is for what I consider a solid baseline experience – 60 frames per second for smooth gameplay at 1080p (Full HD) resolutions. I wouldn’t look at anything less than these choices for a great experience. There are exceptions, but these are niche situations and should be looked at as such. For example, I would love a multi-game arcade cabinet at home, but I can’t play Resident Evil 3 on it!

Can you do better? Yes, in every single case. But future articles will start explaining these options.

Gaming on the go

If you want something you can take with you, then primarily you are looking at a Nintendo Switch or a Gaming Laptop.

For the Switch, budget about $330 for the Switch Lite (handheld only) or $500 for the version you can plug into your TV for choices. Add $60ish for a case and screen protector – you want to protect your portable! It’s a vague amount because the case you like could be cheaper or more expensive. They all do the job at the end of the day.

Then add about $80 per game you want to buy. Switch Online gives you some classic games, but no new titles like Sony or Microsoft. The Switch is a great platform, and quickly became one of my favourites. The downside is that games for it are expensive compared to every other platform.

The Switcher
Yes, there are compromises playing on a 'weaker' platform. But there are positives as well!

For a Gaming Laptop, I would budget for about $2,000 – $2,500 for similar specs to the gaming desktop I talked about before. It will still rip through games at 1080p and has all the same benefits as the desktop. It won’t be quite as fast performance-wise as the desktop though.

Don’t get put off by this statement – a lot of people talk down about laptop performance, and the hate talk is not justified. The differences in many titles will be within a couple of percent of frames showing per second (think the smoothness of gameplay). This difference is for a bunch of good reasons, and I will be making a comparison between Desktops and Laptops in a couple of weeks.

Asus Gaming Laptop
Looks and size are a big part of the price, but if you want to pick it up and game, laptops are always there

Portable means you can game almost anywhere, you just need power and maybe internet access.

The thing to remember though is if you want portable, you sacrifice computing and graphical power, and pay a premium. The same goes for the Switch compared to PS4 and Xbox by the way!

The trade offs for a Switch vs Xbox/PS4 are pretty obvious, but it’s still a great experience. I know a lot of people (and roll my eyes at lots of comments) that complain the Switch doesn’t have 4K HDR. It could, but you would be carrying around something the size of laptop anyway! It’s all pros and cons.

Another portable console that gets shunned by the general gaming community is your phone. Yes, I said it. Your phone can be an awesome gaming platform!

Will it play the latest games at fast frame rates and have all the bells and whistles? Nope. Mobiles rarely have the newest AAA games released on them. Gaming will eat through your battery as well. But a lot of us have pretty high-end phones we purchased on a contract.

But if you just want to check out Fortnite? You probably already have a way sitting in your pocket!

Rog Phone 2
You don't need this phone specifically, but gaming on mobile is fun

For playing on your phone long term, I would probably suggest investing in a Bluetooth controller. The PS4 DualShock works well for about $90. There are lots of different controllers but think of the DualShock as a reliable general choice.

So how do I know what I want to game on?

Really, it comes down to what you want to play. 

If you want to play first-person shooters, adventure games or role-playing games? Good news – you can play on pretty much anything. Real-time strategy? Not many come to console, but they exist. Personally, I prefer PC – keyboard and mouse is still better than controllers. 

The release of the Epic Store has introduced confusion because Epic has paid companies to only release their games on the Epic store. Mostly it’s what is known as a timed exclusive, meaning that you can only buy and play it from Epic for 6-12 months. Want to use your Amazon gift card to buy it? Sorry. You can’t. Well, not for a while at least. And then you have to get it when some other game you want to play is being released. This is a big part of the ‘uproar’ of Epic Games.

This has gone against the industry trend as a whole. Microsoft Game Pass (yes, I keep going on about it) is releasing Xbox games on PC. Older games need work most Xbox games aren’t available. Still, going forward Microsoft has been releasing their games made by Microsoft Studios to work on PC and Xbox. So in a few years, you won’t necessarily need an Xbox to play console games – your ‘gaming PC’ and Game Pass could be all you need for any Microsoft games.

Epic Games Store
Choice is rarely a bad thing, but gamers can be very vocal in their disapproval

Before last year, if a game came out on PC, it used to be on PC. Steam is the defacto PC store, and you could buy it there digitally. You could still buy it from other places though – you didn’t have to buy it only from Steam. Go anywhere that sold physical versions like EB Games, Amazon, JB Hi-Fi and you got the same thing. There are services like EA Origin that only sold their titles. Still, they didn’t have such a significant impact across so many titles. Eventually, such services ended up releasing simultaneously on other platforms such as Steam anyway because sales suffered.

These days, a lot of games come to both PC and consoles across the range. The idea of ‘exclusives’ are both dying off and taking strange turns locking you in, which does make choices confusing for new shoppers.

What are exclusives? Generally, it means a title tied to one platform. If you must play Horizon: Zero Dawn or Marvel’s Spider-Man you need a PS4. Your choice is really between buying a PS4 or PS4 Pro. Want to play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Buy a Switch. It’s not on anything else.

Cyberpunk 2077 Preorder
Apart from First Party (Hardware Makers) titles, it's rare to not be able to play on a lot of platforms these days

Even Sony has started to back down on its exclusives. Death Stranding is coming to PC, and rumours of Horizon Zero Dawn are out there as well. True, this approach isn’t as aggressive as Microsoft, but the fact they are backing down at all is a significant step for them.

Streaming is another factor in all this, but not one you need to worry about today. What streaming means is you can play games from your subscription on almost anything. As I said, for today, don’t worry about it. The tech is still new and not widely available, so while it’s coming don’t be put off by the next big thing. We will get benefits down the line, just not quickly enough you need to prepare for it.

How does this help you pick what you want to game on? If you don’t know what you want to play, you need a platform with the most choices for games.

Project XCloud
Streaming will mean you don't need specific hardware - but it's a ways off yet

As a rule of thumb, PC has the most comprehensive selection of popular games, followed by PlayStation with their exclusives, Xbox, and then Switch. Each platform has strong titles only available on that platform. Unless you need to play that one particular game/series, don’t let it be the only thing that guides you.

But now I am even more confused!

Possibly. And I am sorry about that. There is a lot of information and choices to take in, especially in one go. But what I have outlined today is only a small amount of the possibilities out there. The amount of choice is staggering. Even veterans get confused at this stage. I promise this is the only time I will have so many options laid out like this.

Not every choice is viable for everyone. If you only want portable gaming, then you can see there are only a couple of easy options now. You can get cases with screens for making your PS4 and Xbox portable. You can get small form factor desktops with handles to take with you. There is still more to think about, but if you want quick and easy, hopefully, the choices aren’t as intimidating now. All the other stuff is extras, like getting customisations on your car.

If you only want to game and/or keep costs down, consoles are a great choice. If you have spent a lot on a work desktop system, you can just add a better gaming graphics card. You might be surprised at how many games a ‘work’ laptop can actually play! All of this I will be breaking down in the coming weeks.

We need to know what you really want your experience to be so that you can explore the options that best suit you. Next week, we will take a look at console gaming in more detail.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo Impressions

FF7 Remake Demo Feature

Calling it a Game Preview or a Demo Review feels wrong.

So earlier this week, Square Enix quietly dropped the demo for Final Fantasy VII remake on PSN. I had it downloaded within 2 hours, but I couldn’t play it until the next night.

Hey, you know what it’s like. You could start playing for an unknown amount of time now, or save it until tomorrow night and have a reward for getting through another day 😀

I have finished Final Fantasy VII maybe 15-16 time? Just over a dozen. I know this as for 10 years, I played Final Fantasy VII every October as an annual play.

It is the same demo that was available at PAX Aus 2019 and isn’t the ‘new’ preview that reviewers have gotten their hands on. It took me just over an hour to finish the demo, compared to the section of boss fight I got to play last year.

TL;DR: If you are interested in the game, play the demo. It’s just long enough and shows off the new game brilliantly.

Wait, that’s it? Play the Demo?

No, that’s just if you want to experience it for yourself without hearing anything about the game. True, if you are reading this, you want to know about it, but I like to leave the choice 🙂

If you are like me and of that age that you remember the original release, this demo has another facet that might interest you. Remember in the build-up to Final Fantasy VIIs release on PS1? Remember that demo we all played over and over again that came with Official PlayStation Magazine or your local equivalent?

This is the same demo remade. Same mission, same endpoint, same urge to play it over and over again. If you want to know if Square Enix is doing this just for the money, look at this. Are they remaking because of the commercial success anything with Final Fantasy VII on it? Of course, that’s a factor.

Midgar
I was in awe when I first saw this screen. That feeling as not diminished.

But to quietly remake the demo to that level and not blast the PR trumpet? This is a game being built with love, and it shows.

So what did you think?

I don’t think many people haven’t seen the new graphical style of Final Fantasy VII Remake. I have been trying to avoid spoilers, but headlines and opinions in podcasts make it through.

The game is beautiful. One thing that I love is there is virtually no transition between exploring Midgar and combat. Random encounters, at least in this first ‘tutorial’ section of the game, don’t seem to exist. I have mixed feelings about this. It’s harder to over level your characters, which is a tactic I use in any RPG. At least if you want to go explore another corner in a room, you don’t have 10 minutes of extra combat because of surprises.

If it wasn’t already obvious, Square Enix has really earned the Remake moniker. Final Fantasy VII Remake might have the same core story, but it’s an entirely different game. From the start of the game, turning left after the train (veterans know what I am talking about) smoothly transitioned into the station, and the station felt bigger.

Hero Landing
As Deadpool said - murder on the knees :p

I thought it would take a long time for anyone to challenge Capcom in this area. Resident Evil 2 Remake was just so good, and I can’t wait to play Resident Evil 3 soon. My original plan was playing bursts of Final Fantasy VII in between other games.

Nope. All other video games will be put on hold until I finish Final Fantasy VII Remake.

What did you think about the changes? How was the combat?

Remembering I have only played a small slice of the game; overall, I love the changes made so far. You now have smashable crates to explore as well as chests. There are plenty of areas to go and explore in a now-familiar open-world setting. The changes they made you can see are things they couldn’t do on the PlayStation 1.

Sure, some things they could have implemented like smashable crates. But the number of new areas to explore just in the demo would have made Final Fantasy VII 10+ discs!

Level Exploration
It's easier than randomly mashing X to find a secret, and looks cool

I was worried about the length of the game when I heard that the Remake was becoming episodic. After playing the Demo, I’m good 😀
Sure, I will be waiting like everyone else to see what happens outside of Midgar. Waiting bites. But it took me 2-3 times longer to casually investigate my way to the first reactor. I haven’t tried hunting yet – I am leaving that for the full release.

Combat I am still trying to come to grips with. Overall it’s excellent, and I am enjoying it. The tactic of swapping between different characters during combat or issuing commands feels good. Waiting for your ATB gauge to fill to use some of your skills like materia feels like Final Fantasy VII. Still, a lot of fights I just wailed on the enemy with the attack button.

Unlike Final Fantasy XV which felt like ‘Hold Attack To Win’, Final Fantasy VII Remake has a combo system. Nothing crazy, but you can time swings or hold attack for a combo. It’s not dexterity heavy, and it’s not as slow as turn-based. It’s a solid middle ground I think most players will enjoy.

First Control Tutorial
The demo drops you straight into the action. The tutorial is solid, and not overly intrusive

There are a couple of downsides, though. I keep hitting R2 to run during combat, and I don’t know why. I hit the run button, but that opens commands during battle. I don’t seem to be able to run during fights? I can roll away with evade, but running towards an enemy when they leap away appears to be a no-no. This could be user error, not a shortcoming.

And you know something? That’s my biggest complaint!

Spoilers?

Not here. Saying the demo takes you to the end of the first Mako Reactor isn’t really a spoiler. You know the original and have an idea, or you have never played, and the words are meaningless.

When I was playing, I was hoping for a save point so I could call it a night. I was also hoping I could continue my play from the demo in the main game. You can’t. You will have to play the first section again, no matter what.

Generally in a Final Fantasy game, the first 2-5 hours are a lot of story setup and boring to replay over and over. The demo will have you replay the opening again, but you don’t go far enough in that it’s a chore. You also get enough of a tease on story changes without making seeing them again a chore.

Mako Reactor
I always pictured rivers of Mako in the original, but this looks so amazing!

So your verdict?

No rating here, as it’s just thoughts on a demo. But if you are interested or on the fence about Final Fantasy VII Remake, play the demo. You will have enough of a look at the gameplay to let you know if you want to play it or not.

Personally, this is just another reason I can’t wait for April. I will probably be hitting this hard during the Easter long weekend, and I think I will love every second of it 😀

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – February 17th, 2020

One Deck Dungeon Game Start

Well one game got me really suckered in this week

It looks like another Video Game heavy week, but I played about 9-10 hours of One Deck Dungeon this week! It definitely helped with my ‘Play 250 games’ progress this week! Just look to the right for how that is tracking 🙂

Enough of all that though, on to what I have been playing!

One Deck Dungeon

I have been meaning to get to One Deck Dungeon for a long time. A lot of people have told me how great a solo game it is, but I always had something else to play. Well I fixed that this week, and I played it a lot. Fifteen times, to be exact.

It’s a solo dungeon crawl experience that plays with some tokens and a deck of cards. I played a few times with the physical version, and a few times on the Steam copy I have had for a while.

Now that I know how to play it properly, I will probably solo it on PC. There is a lot of shuffling and turn order things to keep straight, and the digital version handles all that. But beware – the first few run throughs are tough. Expect a full review soon.

One Deck Dungeon - Dragon run complete!
This was a hard slog, but my two adventurers won through

Onitama – Android

As usual, I played some Onitama again when I had a bit of downtime during the day at work. Against the hard AI, I usually win about one third of the time. Last week I was dreaming for a win at all.

This week went much smoother – three games, two wins. Vindication!

I love Onitama as a game. You will see this pop-up in games played pretty consistantly because of this. Onirim is another favourite, but I didn’t get around to it this week.

Why do I love Onitama? Check out my review for more info!

Onitama
VINDICATION! After last week's whooping, getting a couple of wins was great

Halo – Xbox

I am running a bit of a tight rope this week. One of the reason I have trouble finishing video games is switching between games. And this week, I started two other games!

That didn’t stop me from making some progress in Halo this week, but I need to keep old habits in mind. I have gotten up to the Flood, so I’m in the ‘real’ game now I guess?

One thing that did strike me is how little Bungie level design has changed. Halo is almost 20 years old now, and yet I saw a lot of empty areas for loading like I did in Destiny 2. That’s not a bad thing as such, but it’s interesting to see how much some developers stick to what they know.

Halo
I didn't get much further in this week, but I am aiming to finish Halo before any of the other games I started

Marvel’s Spider-Man – PS4

So this week I picked up my DualShock 4 back button attachment. I was going to test it with Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order. I didn’t, as I was worried about getting sucked into it and ignoring Halo.

Ooops. Instead, I got sucked into Spider-Man. The first thing that hit me is that the official Marvel games are not using any of the MCU actors faces. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does ruin some of the immersion for me. I don’t feel like I am playing in the Marvel universe at all.

Another thing that works for Spider-Man but also against it for me is that combat. It plays like the Batman Arkham games, and I spent way too long hitting triangle to counter. This is not a move in Spider-Man!

I think I can finish Halo in a dedicated weekend, so once that is done I will be returning to Spider-Man straight away.

Marvel's Spider-Man
The photo mode is a lot of fun. How could I resist?

Resident Evil 0 – Switch

With the various eShop sales, I have been slowly building my Resident Evil collection on my Switch. Obviously it will be missing the new remakes, but for historical plays I like the idea of taking the collection with me.

Story wise, it takes place before the original Resident Evil, hence the 0 numbering. I have heard lots of mixed reviews about the game, and wanted to check it out for myself.

It has a lot of game innovations that I already appreciate, such as controlling two characters at once. That said, I am early into the game so that may be a negative later.

I don’t intend to hit Resident Evil 0 hard, but it’s a different enough game to the others that I shouldn’t get genre burn out. A couple of hours a week means this will take a long time to get through, but the puzzles so far have been challenging enough that should be enough.

Resident Evil 0
So I beat the first boss. And I did it with a knife! Out of necessity, not skill 😛

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

How a PlayStation 5 rumour could ‘fix’ PlayStation Now for everyone

But PlayStation Now isn’t broken? Or is it? No, it’s just not out yet. But is it? WHAT IS THIS!

With the next generation consoles looming on the horizon, gamers everywhere are looking at what could be. Rumours fly around at an insane pace. Some are presented as such, some are clickbait. It would be best if you never put your faith in a rumour until the company in question confirms it.

And I am going to semi-break that advice while I cross my fingers and hope for new features in an existing service. It’s only semi-break because I am not counting on it happening, just “Wouldn’t it be cool if”.

Everything I am outlining is dependant on one rumour being true, then Sony making individual business decisions. This is an “I wish” discussion, not a report on what Sony is doing.

Anyway, now that’s all clear, some history.

What is PlayStation Now?

Short version, PlayStation Now is Sony’s version of Google Stadia. That came out first. To get around the complaints of the lack of backwards compatibility, Sony introduced the service in 2014 for North America. Within 18 months, access was added to the UK, then Europe and finally Japan.

For a monthly fee, you can play PS2, PS3 and PS4 games on your PS4 or PC. As the games are streamed to your device, all you need is a compatible controller. You can even use an Xbox controller for most games if you like.

For a couple of years, Sony pulled a ‘Vita’ and just let it languish. Not many titles, coupled with a pretty hefty internet requirement, meant it was still a niche product.

Don’t you pay the fee and play? Why can’t you use it?

PlayStation Now is only available in a few countries. Even in those countries, if you don’t have an excellent internet connection, good luck. This is a big part of the backlash over Google Stadia as well.

This doesn’t stop me seeing a bunch of ads for the last 6 years telling me to try it. Sony, you localise so much, maybe stop asking Facebook to ask me to try it for free?

Microsoft is going in pretty hard with streaming with the Xbox Series X as well. Here in Australia, while we are lucky to have Azure datacenters close by, the state of the internet infrastructure is a joke. That didn’t stop Microsoft coming up with a simple for everyone solution.

How Microsoft is paving the way for streaming while attracting new customers

Microsoft Game Pass is the first attempt foundation of consumer acceptance of XCloud, their own streaming solution. Want to try a whole bunch of games for one low price? Here’s Game Pass! Just click the title, and you can be playing it in a few seconds via XCloud.

It doesn’t work this way right now. Since 2017, Microsoft has been adding to the number of Game Pass subscribers. Hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of gamers all now used to access to ‘free’ games.

Game Pass PC Store
This is the new additions for PC. Xbox has even more choices!

How it works today is you download the games locally to play them. You need just enough internet to prove you can play it (basic account check), then off you go. Yes, you have to wait for the downloads and update them yourself, etc. People don’t worry too much, as that is how digital store purchases work already.

What has any of this has to do with rumours and PlayStation Now?

I promise I am getting there.

Nothing can help lousy internet. No matter how many settings you tweak or subscriptions to different tools you buy, if your line can’t handle it, that’s it.

Microsoft got around this brilliantly with Game Pass. Can you stream? Great play away! Internet not playing ball for some reason? Download the game and play on your console. Problem solved!

The reason Microsoft can do this is simple: Xbox has backwards compatibility. Put in an Xbox or Xbox 360 title, and you are good to go. Put a PlayStation 3 disc in the PS4, and watch the console get very confused.

But what if the PS5 has backwards compatibility?

Oh, I think I see where you’re going.

The statement from Sony is that the PS5 will be PS4 and PSVR backwards compatible. The rumour is that the PS5 will support all of the numbered consoles. Quietly I am hoping that the PSP and Vita can get in on the action as well, but that is extra fingers crossed territory.

If this feature is indeed real, Sony could pull a Microsoft and let you download the games to your PS5. No streaming required. Open PlayStation Now up to all PSN territories, and let that sweet subscription money start rolling in.

If you can stream, great. Instant game access on multiple devices is definitely the way to go. No waiting for downloads or updates, pick a title and play. I believe streaming content like this will be the norm at some point, just not today.

If you can’t stream, that would almost be better for Sony financially. Hosting the download files only is a lot cheaper than the cost of streaming infrastructure and would offset these costs. Especially as more people globally would be helping pay for it. Even in the areas PlayStation Now is available, only a percentage of players can use the service.

Metal Gear Solid 4
Metal Gear 4 I can't play again as my PS3 died. I could if I had PlayStation Now though...

Pull a Microsoft. Get everyone wanting to be a part of the service, not just the select few.

So your big ‘fix’ is to copy Game Pass. Why would they?

Why wouldn’t they? Sony couldn’t do offer this for various compatibility reasons in the past, but if that is fixed – why not? The setup is so good, I bought an Xbox. Two, technically. I don’t regret upgrading my preowned first purchase for the purple beastie 🙂

With one exception Rabbit bought for me, I have yet to buy a single Xbox game. That one game was Red Dead Redemption, and yes I know the sequel is prettier and everything but I try and judge a franchise from its roots. I haven’t had to. My games come with Game Pass.

The Purple Beastie
The Fortnite Xbox One - my Purple Beastie. Enzo loves it too, as you can see from the fur :p

Games suggested retail pricing is around $110-$120 in Australia. We usually pay less than this (just), but no one is going to slash the prices on launch titles. Say the PS5 is $100 less than the Series X, you lose that advantage in just one game purchase. And you will need that one game (at least) to justify your shiny new console. Online multiplayer? Do you have PlayStation Plus? That’s another $12 thanks. This does give you access to some free games, so that’s a bonus. But it’s a choice of 2-4 depending on the month, and you might not like any of them.

“Ah, but what about the games for Xbox? They still have to buy games as well!” I hear you say. “Both Xbox and PlayStation need all that extra stuff!” Well, yes and no. Yes, Xbox uses pricing tiers for different services. No, because you are getting more for you money from Xbox these days.

For AUD$16, you can buy the console AND Game Pass Ultimate access for one month. Play what you want. Play online straight away. Even get a couple of free games with Gold. Wanted to play that exclusive launch title? If it’s Microsoft Studios (which it probably will be on launch), it’s already included with Game Pass. Console cost + $16 to play over 100 games including new releases? Done.

PS4 Starter Pack
Starter packs are a great way to save a little money, but you still spend more

Well, I wouldn’t say I have been totally bought across. I am still Team PlayStation, I just appreciate what Microsoft is building. If it’s not on Game Pass, I will probably look at PS4 and Switch versions first. But they have my attention, and I will look. That’s more than they had from me 12 months ago.

The only way for Sony to combat this is to offer parity with Microsoft. On the surface, they do with PlayStation Now. But it’s not the same. With the service only available in certain regions coupled with no fallback option if things aren’t great internet wise, it’s chalk and cheese.

Xbox One S Starter Pack
Xbox has starters and the digital only console. Every saving has some form of extra price.

Are you trying to say buy Xbox?

Gaming is expensive. You pay a lot upfront, but hopefully over the next 7-8 years that cost overall evens out. Doesn’t help that initial splash out though.

I will always say game on what works for you. Microsoft has given players ways to maximise their gaming cheaply (and legally) compared to the limited market PlayStation Now has. It has even used this low cost of entry early to bring across PlayStation fans like me.

I am really hoping that if the backwards compatibility rumours are indeed true, Sony launches PS5 with the new PlayStation Now that allows game downloads in ALL regions. If this is the case, and Sony undercuts the Xbox pricing, it would actually be an attractive saving for the consumer. Not just the superficial save that costs you more in the long run.

I really want streaming to work. Not just for the convenience as a gamer, but environmentally as well. Data Centers use huge amounts of power, which still isn’t great, but companies are doing everything they can for effeciency and plenty of centers are now being built to be powered by renewable energy only. Steps are being made, and each step forward is progress.

And like every complicated chain, that’s one part of the puzzle. Because people will be using lower powered systems to run games, they will use less energy as well. Without buying so many discs and cases, the amount of plastic created and thrown out is affected. Think Video Tapes and Music CD’s. Thanks to services like Netflix and Spotify, less of these are being made while the product itself reaches a lot more people.

Streaming makes sense in the long run, it’s just I don’t think we are there yet. This new generation of consoles will hopefully be the last generation that uses the digital download/play locally model, and I hope Sony takes advantage of this.

If they don’t? They may as well hand the next generation victory to Microsoft, similar to how Microsoft handed it over with the launch of the Xbox One.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Jackbox Party Pack 6 Review

Released 2019
Platform PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, XBox, Switch (Reviewed), Amazon Fire TV, iPad, Apple TV, Android TV
Publisher Jackbox Games Inc. (Website)
Developer Jackbox Games Inc. (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players Usually 3-8 plus audience – recommend at least 5 players
Category Party Games

Sometimes, all you want to do is sit and mess with your friends. And Jackbox Party helps you do this ;D

I have plenty of party type board games in my collection, but most share a common flaw. They are all niche in some way. Geek trivia, Pop Culture, Dexterity or ‘gamey’ games. Whatever the niche, you are setting yourself up for just that game for a while.

None are bad games, but there are usually people that don’t want to join in because they feel they can’t win. The other issue can be the judging of answers. Even going with the written response, people can argue because there is a person to contend with.

This is where the Jackbox Party Pack shines. There is a central app that controls a series of different games, so any rules disputes are typically written off as ‘bugs’. It’s incredible how much this changes the focus of the group, and makes organisation and hosting game nights a breeze.

So it’s a trivia game? Pass

Like so many simple games, it sounds too simple to be any fun. But that isn’t where the Jackbox Party games shine.

Yes, there are trivia games. Word games. There are even drawing games. Each set features a unique host that has a series of jokes and quips that gets laughs as the game continues. The games each feel unique, even when using tried and true mechanics.

Having a host or forcing a player to get up and read a bunch of questions can make or break a games night. We have all been there. A great host can elevate Even a standard pub trivia night. Here is where Jackbox shines – you genuinely want to know what is going to be said next.

Yes, my friends were trying to skewer me for a small cash bonus. What a group :p

But why would I want to play a video game with a heap of people? No one has that many controllers!

One of the great features of Jackbox Party Packs is that almost everyone already has their own controller.

You need a device that ‘hosts’ the games sure, and in a party environment this works brilliantly on consoles as everyone can see the game on their TV. 

The players need a web browser to join in. And as almost everyone has a smartphone these days, everyone gets to play on a device they are already comfortable using. No mixing up XBox and Dual Shock buttons here!

OK, but how does this help with people that don’t want to play?

Say you are playing a game where you need to come up with clever wordplay. Some people do not enjoy this, and wouldn’t want to participate.

A great feature of Jackbox Party Packs is the Audience feature. You can have a few players competing, but everyone else can still be a part of the game by voting on the winning answers. Everyone always gets to play, and the audience has a vital role to play in picking winners.

The Audience feature is great for everyone at a party, but it has another bonus. If you are into streaming, you can stream your Jackbox game and have the room code as a part of the stream, including all of your viewers as well.

What can I say - I have a weirdly awesome group of friends to come up with words like this 😀

Playing like this has made the Jackbox panels at PAX Aus one of my ‘must-do’ panels each year – it’s so much fun watching the panellists playing, while at the same time participating in picking winners.

Well, that all sounds alright, but what do you play?

Each party pack comes with about five mini-games, each unique in their way. As you can tell from the title, this is the 6th such collection of games, with new packs coming out every year.

There is never the same type of game in each pack. As with every compilation, some that are gems, and some that aren’t.

Dictionarium

Dictionarium is a fun and fast word game. Players are given a word, and then everyone comes up with a definition of their device. Once everyone is finished (or the time is up), everyone, including the audience votes on their favourite.,

Round 2 has players writing a synonym based on the winning response. Once again, everyone votes for the winner.

The final round has players then using their synonyms in a sentence. Once again, the winner is voted for by everyone. Finally, you end up with a definition and usage of a completely new word!

Dictionarium is a great quick game that can start the night or a quick reset between some of the bigger games. While fun, it’s not a game I would want to play multiple rounds of back to back.

Role Models

Role models is a great game for a group of friends or at least people that know about each other. Players vote on a category (e.g. Olympic Sports, Heist Jobs, Girl Scout Cookies), and everyone chooses who in the group would suit roles in that category.

When everyone finishes voting, the votes are counted, and a player is assigned that role. If there is a tie for the part, a mini-game between the players plays out to pick a single winner.

‘Correctly’ guess the player for the role, and you can win the game! But really for party games like this, the end score is usually an oversite.

While this is a fun diversion, I think its more fun when players know a bit more about each other. Most of the fun is seeing peoples reactions to what the group thinks of them. For example, why am I better suited to Curling that Synchronised Swimming? You need to know the people to get the most out of this. Randomly assigning players because you have to isn’t as fun.

Joke Boat

For all of those aspiring comedians out there, Joke Boat is here to let you shine. It is also a great way to get a room of people laughing at Dad jokes 😀

There are three rounds in total, with each round mostly sharing the same steps. First, you have the brainstorming round. Enter a bunch of subjects for people to write a joke about.

Next, players select a setup that includes the topics from the brainstorming. Finally, you write the punchline. Simple, right?

Players get to deliver their joke, and players vote on the best. Do all of this twice, with the final round having players trying to write a better punchline for other players jokes.

Joke Boat sounds like a lot of fun, and it was enjoyable, but again not a game you will want to play over and over again.

Push The Button

Push the button is a different Jackbox game in that it doesn’t include audience participation. Every player is a player, and each round is a different mini-game on its own.

The setup of the game is relatively standard social deduction fair. Players are all crew on a space ship, but some players are aliens in disguise. The humans must work out who the aliens are and eject them to win.

The time limit is worked nicely into Press The Button as well. The aliens have uploaded a virus into the ships AI and will delete it entirely in 15 minutes.

Each round, a different player takes the role of the captain and picks a mini-game and crew members to participate. Most of the games have the same kind of setup – answer a question. The catch is the humans get one question, and aliens get a different one. You need to look out for the outlandish answers and responses to determine who the aliens are.

As the game progresses, aliens also get the ability to hack the games and can give the humans ‘alien’ answers, or aliens ‘human’ answers. Because everyone is on their phones, it leads to some exciting experiences.

Anyone can vote to ‘Push The Button’ at any time to vote out aliens. The player that pushes the button then nominates who they think are aliens, and everyone not being accused votes if they agree. If the vote passes, the unlucky players are ejected into space!

If one alien remains on the ship, the aliens win. By far the most complex Jackbox game I have ever played, but one of the smoothest social deduction experiences I have ever played.

Murder Mystery Party 2

Murder Mystery Party is probably my favourite of the games in this pack. It’s a typical trivia game, but with a very dark humoured twist.

Players are guests at a spooky hotel, and the host happens to be a serial killer. Each round, players answer general trivia questions for cash prizes. Get the questions right, and everyone continues.

Get the answer wrong, and the host will get to have fun with you with fatal consequences. ‘Losers’ get to play a random mini-game with the host and safe players/the audience. For example, losing players must drink from a goblet. The catch is the safe players have added poison to the drinks!

If you lost the mini-games, you are not out of the game. You become a ghost and continue playing, so no player elimination in the real sense.

When there is one player left, you can then try and escape the hotel. This is done by answering more trivia questions, with each correct answer moving you closer to the exit.

The other players are still playing, and the higher their score, the closer to the exit they are. There is another catch – if you are in the lead, you can only choose two of the three choices, giving the others a better chance of catching up.

With congratulations like this, is winning really worth it? 😀

If you take the lead as a ghost, you steal the life force of the other player and then everyone is against you. Also, just reaching the exit isn’t quite enough. You have to answer the final question perfectly to win.

Murder Trivia Party 2 was by far our most favourite game of the pack.

They all sound pretty good, what is the downside?

Overall there isn’t too much wrong with any of the games. There were some localisation issues as the questions have a significant US bias, but that increased the ‘us vs the game’ mentality of the group.

On the Switch, there were also a couple of times that I had to close the game and start again. Far from the end of the world, but when trying to change games, having it hang was a bit jarring.

Overall though, if Jackbox Party Pack sounds like something you would like to try, grab one of the older packs for cheaper and give it a go. Each iteration has had a standout game for me that has made the cost worth it!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – September 16th, 2019

Gaming so light, it’s like I was in the Lockup!

Well it’s been a week! Unfortunately, it wasn’t for all the things I like that take up all of the time 🙁

Less than 25 days to PAX means a lot of extra time spent working, which cuts into my gaming time. Adulting is hard!

That said I still got a couple of games in, let me tell you about them below 🙂

Game night was mainly catching up, which is always great because that is a big part of holding the night 🙂

We got in a game of Lockup: A Roll Player Tale at maximum players, and it was a lot of fun. Teaching four different people that take in rules differently was a bit of a challenge. It’s not that Lockup is hard to teach, but there are a lot of moving parts to explain to everyone. When everyone takes in information differently, it is a challenge.

But by the third round everyone had a handle on the game, and it went down well. Expect a formal review in the next couple of weeks now I have played with more people.

Lockup: A Roll Player Tale is a hard one to describe, but a lot of fun when you are into it

Tetris 99 – Switch

Of course I logged in for a couple of roudns of Tetris 99 this week. There was one night I was absolutely wrecked, and Tetris 99 is a great way to clear my mind.

The new additions have been great, and the addition of the daily challenges gives me something to aim for. But.

I have found during the last weeks I have been logging in less and less. It’s no fault of Tetris, it’s still great and the new 2.0 additions have been challenging. It’s just I have so many other games I want to try that it seems to be knocked back a lot.

Still all in all, Tetris 99 is still a fun diversion for me 🙂

The Daily Missions are a nice addition, but I find myself logging in less

PS4 Troubleshooting and reinstallation

Now I know what you are thinking – that’s not a game! But bear with me for a minute.

Sunday afternoon, I was too sore and too tired to jump back into Astral Chain. I was a bit too tired for Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I had a chance to sit on the couch and play a game with Rabbit next to me, and I thought ‘Now I can play Pheonix Wright!’

Well, no I couldn’t. What started wtih the controllers being unable to correct ended up with a complete reinstallation of the PS4, so no gaming Sunday afternoon after all.

Well, it wasn't the Pheonix Wright I was going to play. But getting the PS4 back up was a game in itself!

The thing is, because of the way the PlayStation site is setup, it took me 3 goes to find the correct files – and another two to get the reinstalltion file in the right folder!

So I have chalked up the experience of reinstalling the PS4 software after what I am guessing was a bad update as a game. A game with a bad manual :p

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot Review

Released 2019
Platform PSVR (Reviewed), Steam
Publisher Bethesda (Website)
Developer Machine Games (Website)
Arkane Studios (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality Experience
Shooter
Light Puzzle Solving

It’s a polished VR Experience packaged as a game – I thought we were past this stage, though?

When I saw the announcement for Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, I was very intrigued. Wolfenstein has had an excellent reputation since being rebooted, and I have wanted to play them for a while. With the release of Cyberpilot and Youngblood last month, I thought this would be the best time to jump in.

Starting things up

You start the game in a room seated in a chair. Looking around, it felt like I was in Wolfenstein: Youngblood. The same model assets are being used in both games, and it makes VR look amazing.

Then you hear the voice of your resistance contact, the narrator and guide for the game. You go through some fairly standard VR intro malarky, and then you are in the game.

You are not allowed past this room. The door says so! :p

What you aren’t into though is into the Nazi killing. That threw me a little bit at first – isn’t this a Wolfenstein game? Shoot first ask questions never?

Instead of shooting, you’re tasked with reprogramming a captured Panzerhund. Again, reasonably standard VR fluff, but well-executed on the whole. Remove a panel with the crowbar, pull out the circuit board, listen to more talking, re-insert the circuit board – it’s all stuff VR has you doing already.

Repairing electronics rarely involves crowbars normally...

Then you get into the combat – well, almost. You get into a tutorial showing you how to move and use the Panzerhund, and then you are into the shooting phase.

So how is the combat?

Not bad – not bad at all. It was fun looking through the eyes of some of Wolfenstein’s harder enemies. The panicked reactions of the soldiers as they realise that their robot ally has turned on them is satisfying to see. And see it you do – graphically, I cannot understate how polished Cyberpilot is.

Using the Move controllers, having autonomous left and right-hand movement makes you feel like a badass. Walking through the streets looks and feels impressive, even if the level design is a bit linear.

The lighting effects are hard to show in a still, but the flamethrower looks amazing!

You don’t sound very enthused though, but you are saying it’s good?

Yeah, you knew the ‘but’ was coming.

There are three types of unit to control, of which the Panzerhund is the first. The next level has you flying a drone with an emphasis on stealth. It felt different from the Panzerhund, but it was another “wait for everything to be explained in unskippable sections” as outlined earlier before you got to do what you wanted.

The last robot is the Zitadelle and was, in most ways, the experience I was most expecting. Rockets on my left arm, minigun on my right, go and mow everything down.

By now, I thought the first three levels were the tutorials for the actual game – something fairly standard in a lot of shooters again. So then I started on the fourth level, where I got to jump between all three robots to complete specific tasks.

Rockets or bullets. Why not both?

Here I was, happy to be finally playing the game – and it was over. There are only four levels to the entire game.

Story wise, there was a bit of a twist (no I’m not going into it) but even that felt rushed and out of place.

Bottom line, this felt like the start of a great game that was rushed to meet an artificial deadline. If this had stayed in development another year with a more fleshed out story and levels, it could have been a great game rather than a good experience.

How are the Controls?

With the Move controllers, everything worked pretty well overall. Tracking was good for the most part, and I didn’t have to recenter myself very often.

The most annoying control issue I had was repairing with the Panzerhund and Zitadelle. In the cockpit, if you put your right hand down to the right and fire, Cyberpilot would often assume you were trying to dock the virtual controller to the frame and initiate repairs.

The other problem I had was the tutorials. They are unskippable and relatively slow. It felt like they were making sure you knew everything you could and couldn’t do in the game.

With the PSVR trying to help you lock onto things, repairing accidently happens a lot

So imagine my surprise when I accidentally find out 10 minutes before finishing the game I could strafe. That would have been nice to know earlier in the game!

So it’s not worth it?

No, by all means, grab it – just not at its current price point, and know that it’s not a game in and of itself.

Cyberpilot is fun enough – if you know it’s only a short term experience.

There are a variety of different challenges to try for in the trophy list, but they feel like they are there for completionists rather than fun things to do.

I do regret getting the physical copy. I bought it for AUD$40 from EB Games, mainly because I added it to my preorder for Youngblood. It’s AUD$30 on the PlayStation Store, and I think it will either be a PS Plus add on or half-price shortly.

Once Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot hits the AUD$15-20 mark, I think it will be better value for money and can recommend more people play it. But by then I think the hype will be gone, so interest in the game will have probably died off to the point not as many people will try this game as they should.

There are little things to discover, but not enough to make you play Cyberpilot again and again
JohnHQLD
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot

Final Thoughts

I don’t regret buying Wolfenstein: Cypberpilot at all. It looks so good, and the fun was there. Not enough to make a concerted effort for a platinum trophy, but it was fun enough. The seeds of an entire spin of series for Wolfenstein are sitting here, waiting to be nurtured.

What Cyberpilot doesn’t have is longevity. It’s like Batman: Arkham VR – it’s a polished and immersive experience, but that is all it is – an experience. This far into the PSVR lifecycle, I was hoping for more.

While the idea of Wolfenstein in VR is appealing, I don’t think that the PSVR is capable of doing it justice. Cypberpilot is a positive experiment and something that I would like to see Bethesda expand on. I will happily get the next game in the Wolfenstein VR series if it happens, but I would recommend picking up Cyberpilot when it’s on sale.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  •  Amazing Visuals
  •  Each robot feels different to control
  •  Entertaining especially for new VR players
  •  Lots of trophy challenges to complete

Cons

  •  2 hours tops to complete
  •  Unskippable Tutorials and Exposition
  •  No secrets or collectables to promote level exploration
  •  Controls can be awkward

Last Week’s Gaming – July 29th, 2019

The Pretty Clever Lords of Waterdeep had a Rapid Response to the incident in the Blue Lagoon

It was another great week of gaming! I have a lot of new games coming in via both retail orders and Kickstarters, and quite a few games launched last Friday and I got to play two of them!

Travel may interefere with my gaming this week, but with the original Doom trilogy, finihsing Final Fantasy X and waiting to start Fire Emblem: Three Houses I will have some solid replacement games waiting in the wings!

It has been far too long since I got Lords of Waterdeep to the table. It was a mix of new players and a couple of veterans, and everyone had just as good a time.

Lords of Waterdeep takes a long time to play, especially when learning. But two brand new players jumped in and played the full expanded game (to accomodate 6 players) with no issues at all.

It was a fun night, with breaks for dinner and desert making for a long but very social night. Expect to see more on this game over time, it still makes me happy to play 🙂

Lords of Waterdeep is my most 'blinged' game, hands down.

Playing solo, I am still enjoying That’s Pretty Clever on my phone. But I am thinkign of a Roll and Write night for my games night, so I pulled out the physical version again.

That was for 2 reasons. First, you quickly forget how much admin the app does for you! Secondly, playing the physical version takes longer and I wanted to get a feel for how long a game may take per player.

My biggest gripe is I was concentrating so much on those things, I made very poor decisions. Maybe I should take a bit longer and go for a much better score!

I pulled out the physical version for something different, even though I was playing solo

Another Alpal special that I would never have even thought to look for – and it’s a Reiner Knizia game!

Very similar in a lot of respects to games like Through the Desert, Blue Lagoon has players exploring land and collecting resources. A lot of players start turning away at such a description, but Blue Lagoon is surpricingly accessible for all players.

Want to claim a chunk of land as yours? Have more people on it. Want to have explored the most? Have people on every island. Add set collection for the resources, and you have the trademark ‘everything gives you points somehow’ of a Knizia game.

Another Reiner Knizia classic - simple yet deep, with the top 3 spots within 6 points of each other

We had a four player game, and even on the very first game almost everything clicked quickly for everyone. You play in two stages, and there are slight placement changes between the two, but it’s a game you can teach and be playing wihtin five minutes every time.

I have been looking forward to this since it’s announcement. Rapid Response is the latest addition to the Pandemic universe, and is designed by Kane Klenko of Fuse, Flatline and Flipships fame.

A real time turn based race against the clock, players have to strategise, carry out their turn and hope luck is with them against an unstoppable force – the timer :p

Instead of using cards like normal Pandemic, players roll dice and use worker placement type mechanics to create enough supplies to save a town after an unnamed disaster.

I was worried this would have the same initial 'huh' factor as Fuse and Flatline. There was nothing to be worried about.

Every time the timer runs out (every 2 minutes), you lose a token and a new city has a disaster you must deal with. Every time you save a city, you get a token back, so there is no downtime in this game!

We played until we cleared the first card without a timer to make sure we had the mechanics and the like nailed down. We also played without the crisis cards – extra machanics to increase the challenge!

Unlike explaining Fuse and Flatline to new players, Pandemic: Rapid Response seemed to click a lot better and work a lot smoother out of the gate. Look forward to a formal review in the next few weeks!

Gloomhaven (Steam)

You knew I was going to give this another go. Or thirty.

Nothing has changed since I played last week, but I am still really enjoying the ability to jump in and just clear a dungeon.

I am thinking of resetting and playing with all 4 available characters, but that will be in a week or so. I am having fun just finding my feet with the systems again.

One thing I did do differently was move Gloomhaven to my ultrawide screen, and I am glad I did. The extra screen real estate works nicely, and it the UI doesn’t feel strange like some other games.

It's a little thing, but I really love the little touches already present - like the adventure 'map'

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (PSVR)

Both games coming out Friday interested me for very different reasons.

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot has you strapped to a chair and using the move controllers as virtual control sticks – both in and out of the game.

The first level has you controlling a panzerhoung – a giant robot dog with a flamethrower, and the second level has you controlling a drone with a cloak and short range zap.

I only finished two levels, but I have played enough to know I want to finish it. I don’t know if I want to platinum it, but we will see.

Flying a drone through an enemy office. That guard is about to get a shock :p

Fair warning though – in the drone level, I got my first case of VR motion sickness in a very long time. It may have been because I was playing standing while my ‘body’ was seated, but it defninitely happened. I will let you know how that goes as I play more.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood (PS4)

The other Wolfenstein game, Youngblood, had me as a co-op shooter I could play with Rabbit. Thanks to the buddy system, I only need to buy one copy of the game, and I can play with any of my friends – with some restrictions. I will talk more about that during the week.

Playing at the moment in offline mode myself, I am surprised how much Wolfenstein: Youngblood has drawn me in. I can stealth almost every area, but the run and gun gunplay is satisfying when things go wrong.

If all zeppelins had nightclub casinos, I am sure they would be a lot more popular!

Developed with Arkane Studios, the Dishonoured and Prey mechanics are very much present and fit right in. Stealth, collectables, great level pacing – it’s all here.

If I can setup a regular game partner session time, I think this might be my first Arkane platinum – I am enjoying it that much!

Horizon Chase Turbo (PS4)

Back in the day, I could mostly fit in the arcade Out Run machine at my local shopping center – the one with the car you sat in and moved as you steered. It was different, it was fun, but I never quite had the drive (hah puns!) to finish it.

Last weekend, I sat on my couch and had the exact same experience, minus the moving chair.

You can grab Horizon Chase Turbo on PlayStation Plus for July still (for a few days anyway), and if you would like to kick back with an OK racer with nostalgia feels, it works? Personally, I will just fire out Burnout Paradise again next time I want a race.

This is very much old school racing - even down to the graphics

Beat Saber (PSVR)

Yep, switched back to the goold old PSVR for a bit this week after playing the Vive for a couple of weeks.

Beat Saber is still excellent, and you should definitely play it. That hasn’t changed.

Bonuses for PSVR – the screen noticably doesn’t have the ‘screen door’ effect like the Vive does. The headset is more comfortable to wear overall, but it still has the annoying cable that must lead in front of you.

Well that was a terrible cut - but it was a cut!

Bonuses for Vive (w/ wireless adaptor) – No cable, except for a small cable to a battery pack. Obvious increase in precision tracking. Level Editor on PC which I will be messing with in a couple of weeks 🙂

Basically, I don’t think I will ever get sick of playing Beat Saber. I am giving serious thought to finally doing a semi-concentrated platinum run on PSVR though.

What about your week? I hope you had a great one!

What games did you get in? Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Do you have a Gen Con wish list?

Shout out in the comments, on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD