Minesweeper Genius Review

Released 2019
Platform Switch (reviewed), Android, iOS, PlayStation, XBOX, Windows
Publisher Blowfish Games (Website)
Developer Mother Gaia Studio (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Puzzle
Deductive Logic

Far from a new game, but it’s new to Switch, so I nabbed it. It’s not the Minesweeper I remember, but it’s not a bad evolution either.

As an older computer geek, I have had a soft spot for Minesweeper for decades. It used to come bundled with Windows, all the way back from Windows 3.1. It’s only Windows 10 that stopped that little tradition, but you can still get it from the Microsoft Store.

It’s far from the greatest game in the world. But it is a satisfyingly frustrating logic puzzle, and if you just want a little bit of a distraction, it fit the bill fine. Not a game for everyone, but it was free and it scratched an itch.

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through the Switch eShop, and I saw Minesweeper Genius for something like AUD$1.20. So I thought what the hell and gave it a try.

Minesweeper Classic
I almost grew up with the screen. Such a simple concept should not be so hard!

Since when does Minesweeper have a story?

One of the first differences you see from ‘classic’ Minesweeper is that you control a character called Aristotle. You have been captured by aliens or something, and you need to solve their tests.

Honestly, the story isn’t essential or even necessary to understand. I have yet to hit a cutscene or anything along those lines, so you just jump in and play.

So the only ‘story’ you have to deal with is that you need to complete a variety of different puzzles and then get to the end.

Minesweeper Genius - Early Levels
The early levels are very simple - at least, for someone that has already played a lot of Minesweeper

Puzzles? It’s Minesweeper, isn’t it?

Yes, but with a small difference. When you play Minesweeper, you need to clear all the non-mined squares. In Minesweeper Genius, you need to guide Aristotle through the level. It’s a small functional difference, but it is a difference.

What makes me put Minesweeper Genius more into the puzzle category than deductive logic is the fact he can’t backtrack. You do need to find the one path to the level exit.

The initial levels are very simple and let you get a feel for how to play the game. If you judge Minesweeper Genius from the first few areas, you would think it was a ridiculously simple game with little challenge.

Minesweeper Genius - Level Select
Each area is split into 10 levels of the same difficulty level

There are a few unique tiles that allow you to jump a square, or move rows/columns in a direction. As you get into larger areas, more indicators are placed within the level itself, not just the number of mines in a row or column. These take a while to get to though. So there is a bit of ‘stick with it’ for Minesweeper veterans.

Once you get through an area, you unlock the advanced puzzles. Early on, these ramp up the difficulty significantly. So if you are looking for more from the game, this is a good way to keep you interested as you get through the lower difficulty levels. If you are learning, you can come back when you have a better grasp of the game.

Minesweeper Genius - Early Advanced Level
The advanced levels ramp up the complexity nicely

So I just look up solutions online. What’s the fun in that?

So when you play, if you get through a level without dying, you get a 3-star rating. So if you complete every level with 3 stars, I am guessing that’s your completion goal?

I made a few mistakes at an early level, but Aristotle’s body was a grim reminder a mine was there. So I thought I would retry the level now I knew the layout, and keep my scoring streak going.

Reloading the level, it had changed entirely. So no walkthroughs are available – you have to complete the randomly generated puzzle!

This actually made me excited. Once I find an area I can just jump into and play with the difficulty I am looking for, I can play an endless amount of levels. So this isn’t a ‘one and done’ run through, which I appreciate.

So should I buy Minesweeper Genius?

If you are interested enough to look for this review, probably. Especially if you pick it up for sale like I did for only a couple of dollars.

Looking around, it has been released on almost everything. You could get it on your phone, PC, PlayStation and Xbox. Personally, I think mobile and Switch make the most sense, maybe on PC.

Minesweeper Genius is a game you pick up for a few minutes at a time and forget about until you next want a quick diversion. I couldn’t see myself firing up my PlayStation or Xbox for a few games. I have been firing up my Switch while something is playing on the TV though, and it’s been fun.

Minesweeper Genius - Progress so far
The best praise I can give is that I actually want to finish all the levels

Overall Thoughts

Minesweeper Genius is an evolution of the classic Minesweeper game. Straightforward and challenging, it’s a great way to pass a few minutes while keeping your brain engaged.

The music is repetitive, and the visual style could use some variation. Still, Minesweeper Genius is a solid game and a great new take on a classic game.

If you are a Minesweeper veteran though, you will need to spend at least 15 minutes clearing the ‘easy’ levels before getting to a real challenge though.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Clean (if bland) visual style
  • Very accessible and easy to pick up
  • Good challenge difficulty curve for beginners
  • Random puzzle generation leads to infinite playability

Cons

  • The soundtrack can be annoying
  • More suited to mobile gaming than dedicated play sessions

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Destroy All Humans! Remake Launch Date Announced!

Excited for another round of fun alien invasion madness!

Last year, I got all excited when THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games announced a revisit of a PlayStation 2 favourite. Destroy All Humans! isn’t a game for some, but it lets you take the aliens side in a B-movie parody setting.

This is a video game! Isn’t Wednesday supposed to be about exciting Kickstarters and the like?ย 

I tried. I hit a bit of a wall this week though.

Frosthaven is going great guns, and Resident Evil 3 from Steamforged Games went live today as well.

Frosthaven Cover Art
Excited it exists? YEP! AUD$250ish excited? Not right now...
Resident Evil 3 Board Game
Well made, but the gameplay didn't really click with me

I haven’t finished with Gloomhaven yet (not even really started!) so biding my time on Frosthaven. As for Resident Evil 3 – the minis are great, but Resident Evil 2 didn’t really click with me. This makes it hard to be enthusiastic about the follow-up.

Mainstream wise, no new announcements have really grabbed my attention either. Seems to be a slow week.

But knowing when I will be able to play Destroy All Humans!? That is worth getting excited about!

So what is Destroy All Humans!?

Players take control of Cryptosporidium 137 and make your way through various missions in this open-world adventure game. You play along with various cold-war era sci-fi tropes, such as rescuing a previous visitor and extracting human DNA for study.

Honestly, the original gameplay is pretty basic. You play Destroy All Humans! for the humour of the story and missions more than anything else.

The humour can be very sophisticated at times, and well in the toilet at others. Anal probes are a weapon choice and make it simple to extract DNA (think currency). Time appropriate pop references are also included. You can also scan the minds of other humans to help your concentration in stealth missions. This leads to some incredibly funny dialogue choices at times.

To get an idea of the kind of humour involved, if the reveal trailer doesn’t at least make you smile – probably avoid this game. ๐Ÿ˜€

So when is the release date?

Oh yeah, that would be helpful, wouldn’t it? July 28th is when I will be going to pick up my DNA Collectors Edition. I couldn’t help myself, the statue is awesome!

Destroy All Humans DNA Collectors Edition
It's not often I grab these versions, but I can see that UFO on my shelf ๐Ÿ™‚

So early August, expect to hear me talking about my first impressions and hands-on with another revisit of the past ๐Ÿ™‚

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Resident Evil 3 Review – Seeing S.T.A.R.S.

Resident Evil 3 Cover
Released 2020
Platform PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher Capcom (Website)
Developer Capcom (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Survival
Horror
Action

2019’s Resident Evil 2 may have set some expectations too high.

I am one of those people that grew up playing the Resident Evil series. I was in my early 20’s when I first played the original, and I still jump when the dogs first jump through the window.

Resident Evil 5 and 6 have not had a great time review wise over the years. I appreciate Capcom’s attempts to try new things. Still, I didn’t get excited about Resident Evil 7 until I played the demo. Gone was the heavily action-oriented gameplay. ‘Returning to your roots’ is on overused cliche description, but here, it fits.

First, let me clear the elephants in the room.

To play through Resident Evil 3 doesn’t take long, especially compared to modern games. My first playthrough was about 6 hours of playtime. For a fully priced title, this has some people crying foul.

Here’s the thing – the original game was also short. Replay was promoted in trying to achieve multiple endings, which can be fun to watch. It doesn’t change the fact that you play vast portions of the game over and over again.

The remake removes the multiple endings, and also some gameplay mechanics as they were linked. But if you stick with it, the higher difficulty modes add back a lot of the elements people were saying was missing. Playing on nightmare randomises enemy types and positions, but most people haven’t highlighted this in their scathing reviews.

Resident Evil 3 PlayStation Original
20 years ago, this was cutting edge graphics

The more significant issue to me is the price. Bottom line, Resident Evil 3 2020 is a bundle game. You get the remake, and you get a new multiplayer game – Resistance.

I am not interested in blind multiplayer games. I don’t want to join up with a whole lot of people I don’t know and play a game. Now, this is a personal game decision – I would rather play with people I know and have a fun catch up as we play.

As such, I haven’t even started up Resistance. But I have had to buy it to play the game I do want to play. I can see both sides on this one.

Getting more Resident Evil is rarely a bad thing to me, but I would rather have paid AUD$60 per game or maybe have an AUD$100 bundle option.

Resident Evil Resistance
I'm not saying it's a bad game, just I am not interested in it

If you do want to play Resident Evil 3 but like me don’t like the online multiplayer vs type games, wait until it’s on sale. But this review is all about the main Resident Evil 3 game, in all its single-player glory.

This definitely isn’t your standard Resident Evil build-up.

Resident Evil, and survival horror in general, have a formula. You start the game, have about 10-15 minutes of slow and ‘safe’ exploration, and then the game starts properly. It’s usually about an hour or two before your first boss fight.

Resident Evil 3 starts you off in a dream sequence with Jill Valentine, the character you play. Even if you don’t know anything about the series, this sequence gives you the information that Jill has problems with Umbrella and with dealing with the existence of zombies.

Then, you get a phone call that is interrupted by the games big bad Nemesis breaking through your wall. There is no subtle build-up here – you are thrown into the deep end straight away. You get that sense of adrenaline like the opening of a high impact action film.

Resident Evil 3 Here's Nemesis
I don't care what anyone says - this is the 'classic Jill' uniform :p

How can you keep up with pressure like that for the whole game?

On your first play, the tension is high, and all you want to do is get away from the monster hunting you down. But, this tension is only felt the first time.

This is where I say Resident Evil 2 may have set the bar a little high. When Mr X pursued you through the Racoon City Police Station, you never knew what to expect. In contrast, Nemesis only appears at set points. You always know when to expect him to make your life harder.

Resident Evil 3 And They Pull You Right Back In
You think you get away...

I have heard a lot of people talk about how this is a negative of the game. Personally, I think this is positive. But I will get into the reasoning of why I believe this when I talk about replayability.ย 

I tried Resident Evil before, and the weird puzzles and backtracking are frustrating and annoying.

Yep. The original PlayStation Resident Evil trilogy and the later Resident Evil 0 all have this problem. Having to go from one end of the map to the other to pick up weird components in order is a problem. Picking up too many items not knowing what to when, and having to drop vital health and ammo, is frustrating.

You don’t have any of this in Resident Evil 3. Not really. There are a couple of puzzles, but they are very streamlined if you have to do them. And that a great change –ย ifย you have to do them. A lot of puzzles are optional, and while you get rewards for doing them, they aren’t vital.

This kind of ties into people saying with Resident Evil 3 is so short. Streamlined puzzles and smaller areas that you can’t go back to cut out hours of ‘pointless’ exploration.

Resident Evil 3 Optional Puzzles
Don't wan tto solve the puzzle? Only a couple are now mandatory

So you don’t seem to be talking much about the actual gameplay…

I am kind of glossing over it in this review. This is for two particular reasons.

Firstly, the game looks fantastic, and the controls are great. Any of the screenshots and video footage demonstrate this. Based on the same technology as Resident Evil 2, this was pretty much guaranteed. Hence, going into the great graphics and flawless cutscenes (even if the content can be cheesy) is pretty skippable.

Secondly, as I said in my First Impressions, the Racoon City Demo is very representative of the final gameplay. You can download it on any platform, and decide for yourself if you enjoy Resident Evil or not.

So what makes Resident Evil 3 replayable?

When you first play a Resident Evil game, you can enjoy the (admittedly convoluted) story that makes the series unique.

Once you have finished the story, you can then continue to play to reach higher ranks and earn rewards. Some rewards are aesthetic, like costumes. Some make future runs easier, like infinite ammo rocket launchers.

Resident Evil and its set gameplay make for a magnificent training ground for learning how to speedrun. Did it take you 20 minutes to find the combination to a safe? Now that combination is known, you can cut out that whole section of gameplay.

Resident Evil 3 The Shop
You can even pick your own rewards with the new Shop system

It was also the series that got me interested in Completionist gameplay, long before trophies or achievements. Finding all of the documents and files around the world fleshes out the lore of the Resident Evil universe.

This still doesn’t sound like a game I would be interested in.

Doing this with the original games takes a lot of patience and dedication. Many players have given up because the grind to get to better rewards is too much. This is more than fair – Resident Evil isn’t for everyone, and not just because of the theme.

Resident Evil 3 has made the series accessible. Not easier – don’t get the two confused.

If you wanted to get started in Resident Evil, I would have said start with 4 and warn people that it takes a while to warm up to. Resident Evil 2 last year made this more manageable in terms of access, but I still would have said to people don’t be afraid to have a walkthrough handy.

Now, if you have any interest in Resident Evil, Resident Evil 3 is a great introduction. You can get a feel for the world, the logic of the series, and have it in a relatively bite-sized piece.

I know Resident Evil. Are saying it’s a series tutorial?

Not so fast. Yes, if you are a veteran to the series, the difficulty curve is lower.

Play on Hard. Give yourself the challenge. Then try Nightmare mode. Everything you are expecting from a Resident Evil game comes out to play. New combinations of enemies, locations, even adding randomisation of item locations. Nightmare mode is the real hidden gem of Resident Evil 3.

My biggest complaint is that the mode was so hidden in the game, and that very few reviewers are highlighting it.

Resident Evil 3 New Difficulties
Two 'hidden' modes - and it's not just tougher enemies!

For the first time, I have to ask an open question on some of these reviews. It feels like that they played Resident Evil 3 in Assist mode (the easiest way where you also start with an assault rifle) and called their game the entire experience. If that’s the case, I feel bad that they missed out on the experience they wanted. It was right at their fingertips.

Overall Thoughts

Resident Evil 3 is a solid new entry, and helps to solidify some of the series canon lore. It’s an enjoyable game, that I am on my third playthrough, and may try to Platinum Resident Evil 3.

I also enjoy the return to the ‘old days’ with demo versions that let you try before you buy. Really, take that I am enjoying the game and I think many would enjoy Resident Evil 3 as a recommendation, then try the demo.

I only wish they had greenlit Resident Evil: Code Veronica rather than Resident Evil 4 for the next remake.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Let’s you explore more of Racoon City
  • Increased enemy AI and new dodge mechanic are satisfying
  • RE Engine is beautiful on every platform

Cons

  • For series veterans, best experience is hidden
  • While the bundle value is there, if you only want one game it makes the other expensive
  • Segmenting sections stopping backtracking doesn’t feel right

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Control Review

Control
Control
Released 2019
Platform PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher 505 Games (Website)
Developer Remedy Entertainment (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Adventure
Paranormal
Third Person Shooter
Abilities
Exploration

Ever wondered what happened if you mix Twin Peaks with a shooter? Control is the closest thing I have ever found.

Remedy’s Control is a game that sounds like it was made for a niche. The storyline is laced with paranormal elements. It’s a shooter that emphasis exploration and interaction.

On PC, it was hailed as the ‘right’ way to implement Ray Tracing. I know a few gamers that were put off. The thought they needed to buy a new graphics card to enjoy Control.

Like a meal that sounds wrong, if you are brave enough to take a bite, the rewards are worth it. This is one of those times where your worst fears are unfounded.

So what is Control?

You play as Jesse Fayden, and all you know is you have walked into a government building. That is empty. You have no idea what is going on, or what your goal is.

You get some objectives to give you direction, but you have no context to help you. If you watch an action movie, you know the first few minutes are the setup justifying the ensuing mayhem. The first few minutes of Control are you investigating an empty office building.

Jesse talks to herself, and then suddenly you realise she is talking to someone. She reacts to a soft geometric ring that we see as the player. At first, I thought this was an immersion technique, where Jesse talked to the player.

Spoiler – I was wrong.

Control First Document
Security checkpoint in Federal building. Normal. No one investigating why you set off the alarm though...

Eventually, you pick up a weapon. In the world of Control, this makes you The Director of the Federal Bureau of Control. No, it makes no sense. But it becomes a substantial part of your game world.

From here, you explore The Oldest House (the office building) and help others to stop a potential invasion while finding your brother.

Why play a game that makes no sense?

Why stick with a television series that makes little sense to you? There are small elements that promise potential and draw you in. For me, I just had to know what was going on.

Remedy nailed the opening story pacing. I spent maybe three minutes walking around thinking “Huh? What’s all the hype about?” Twenty minutes later, I knew I was playing until I couldn’t anymore.

That’s a bit vague. Details?

I know Control came out a while ago, but I also know that many people haven’t tried Control. Because of this, I don’t want to spoil any of the stories for anyone.

Yes, stories. Control evolves from a relatively short story game (maybe 6-7 hours?) into the story you want to make. Side quests can be a massive grind in adventure games, but I was genuinely looking forward to helping others in Control.

Now, these side quests don’t change the ending. There is a definite ending, and The Foundation DLC picks up right after this ending. There is no ending for this story yet in the traditional sense.

Control Objective Found
The screen stays pretty clear. Objective in the top left, markers fairly obvious.

That said, the ending of the main game isn’t a cliffhanger. I would describe it more as a good season 1 ending where you don’t know if season 2 is coming.

OK, so what actually is Control?

You can sum up Control as an adventure game with light RPG elements and shooting. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it?

This is where I try to get across that Control is greater than the sum of its parts. The exploration of The Oldest House is satisfying. Even though I got the Platinum Trophy, I have much more to explore. I grabbed the Deluxe version on sale on PS4, and now I have even more to explore.

By introducing the Astral Plane and having The Oldest House literally move, it makes progression feel satisfying. When you unlock new powers like Levitation, areas you have already explored suddenly have new paths available to you.

Control Astral Plane
The Astral Plane has a few uses, the most obvious being the tutorial mode for new abilities

The Service Weapon, your gun in the game, changes forms. Having one weapon sounds boring, nut you unlock these forms as you play. It means you get a pistol, Gatling gun, rocket launcher and sniper rifle all at the same time. It also makes sense of how you can carry so many weapons at the same time.

Most of the previous paragraphs sound strange, and yet in the context of Control makes perfect sense. Every character looked at in isolation is just weird, yet make perfect sense in the story. Actions and powers you utilise or set pieces you come across make sense.

Control Dr Darling
These video presentations actually feel right in the game

Even the Threshold Kids, the video series that initially freaked me out, became fun things to find. The lore you come across in the form documents and videos is interesting. Files and letters redacted nature serves as a hook rather than an annoyance. Videos that made you pull a face suddenly make something else click later.

But. There is always a but.

Yep. Control is no different. Side quests are fun, but some of them are so hidden that many people can pass straight past them. One of these quests was a room investigating luck. The instructions for how to ‘solve’ the puzzle were in plain sight, but there was no mission in my objective list.

The missions that are spelled out for you are relatively obvious fetch/hunt type quests. There aren’t many, so the ‘fetch grind’ that many adventure games suffer from. You can skip most of them, but if you do, you won’t end up as powerful as you could be.

Control Alternate Suits
Doing optional missions can unlock some new looks. This one is a paid DLC bonus.

The other catch is the action. People that don’t like shooters (like myself) can get turned off by an action-oriented game. While Control has a lot of action happening, it rewards patience and practice. Boss too hard? Level up and come back. These bosses tend to be optional – such encounters aren’t a wall.

The biggest hurdle to me is the story itself. It won’t click with everyone. A lot of people could give up purely because they are lost in the story. Every other ‘negative’ of Control has a subtle fix, except for this.

If you don’t get the story – ignore it. Control will let you do this very easily. I am not trying to say the story is irrelevant. People that dig will be rewarded. But you can focus just on the next objective and levelling up your powers and enjoy it.

Console, PC, RTX?

So here is a big one. I bought Control on PC cheap on the Epic Store, and again for my PS4 Pro. The PC version I bought to show how good it plays on my laptop compared to my PC, and that comparison is coming. I haven’t played it on any system that can take advantage of Ray Tracing.

A few people have commented that I am an RTX hater. This isn’t correct. Two years after the release of the Nvidia RTX line, only a handful of games take advantage of it. That is changing this year, but right now it’s still a very niche tech.

What does RTX bring to Control? Real-time reflections, beautiful lighting and realistic shadows. The cost to do this though is pretty staggering. I personally wouldn’t play Control on PC with Ray Tracing on with less than a 2070 Super.

This video shows Nvidia’s examples of Ray Tracing in the game.

Differences between my laptops 1660Ti and my desktops 1080Ti were slim. I don’t remember any difference in the experience. Sure, if I examined individual frames, I am sure I could spot differences. The feeling of awe is what I remember, and Control looked great on both.

Control 1660Ti
Jacket looks a little flatter but details are still crisp on my laptop 1660Ti
Control 1080Ti.png
Control on my desktop 1080Ti ultrawide

I only played a tiny portion on PC though. I played the game ‘properly’ on my PS4 Pro. Even at 1080p, there were some very noticeable frame rate drops on PlayStation. These only occurred in larger battles with a lot of powers in use. Not enough to ruin the experience, but it’s evident that Control is pushing the older consoles to their limits.

My personal feeling is paying anywhere from AUD$300 to AUD$2000 more depending on your graphics card (e.g. RTX 2060 Super to RTX 2080 Ti) is a lot to make one game look better. Hands down it looks a lot better, but I can do a lot more with that extra cash!

Digital Foundry did an excellent tech review of the different technologies implemented in Control you can check out below. But bottom line, I think you will enjoy Control on any platform you want to play it on.

Overall Thoughts

Comparing Control to Twin Peaks is very apt. The story is deeper than it appears, but it doesn’t drag everything out while feeding you the lines to follow. It also allows the player much more choice than might be immediately obvious at first glance.

The story won’t be for everyone. The action won’t be for everyone. But the way that Remedy has blended everything into an experience that is both familiar and unique is phenomenal.

If you are on the fence, with various sales now that it has been out for a while, Control is a safe buy for many people.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Gorgeous graphics
  • A lot more room to explore and customise than it appears
  • The balance between story and playing is pretty spot on
  • Much more to discover than the objective lists suggest

Cons

  • You get over close-ups of Jesse quickly
  • Frame rate dips even on PS4 Pro in battles with lots of enemies and powers can be distracting for that battle
  • Paranormal heavy storyline not for everyone

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Resident Evil 3 First Impressions and Thoughts

Resident Evil 3 Raccoon City Demo Capture 2

Everyone’s First Impressions on Resident Evil 3? STAAAARRRRS!

Resident Evil 3 is finally here, and I have captured my first impressions! Don’t worry if you don’t get all the STARS references that will be flying around – it’s an injoke from the game, that you will get quickly if you play ๐Ÿ˜€

There is only one game I have been waiting for with more anticipation, and it is teasing me on my shelf.

Final Fnatasy VII Deluxe
It teases me :p

I am waiting for April 10th to look at this one. Not just because of the request for no spoilers from Square Enix, but day one patches and the like aren’t available. So, my plan is to do my first impressions as per normal – even though the startย should be the demo that was recently released.

But enough of that teaser, on to todays game – RESIDENT EVIL 3! Resident Evil 2 blew me away last year, and the only reason I haven’t Platinumed it is because I haven’t had the time to dedicate powering through the later skill and time based challenges.

As much as I have been trying to stay away from reviews, headlines have flashed before me. Apparently the game is a ‘mixed’ experience. So what do I think after a half hour of gameplay?

Only one way to find out!

Is Resident Evil 3 a game you have been looking forward to? I can tell you from the demo, it plays equally well on PC, PS4 Pro and Xbox One S so you should have a great time playing it if you do!

Not sure if Resident Evil 3 is for you? Play the Racoon City demo – it is very representative of what Resident Evil 3 is like.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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 1: Consoles and What about Next Gen?

Overkill Lounge Gaming Setup

What should you look at while gaming at home?

So on Tuesday, I talked about the Switch and why it is (to me) the best portable gaming choice. The great thing about mobile gaming is you can play it at home just as well as on the bus! So if the Switch games library is what you are looking for, you can stick with the Switch happily ๐Ÿ˜€

You may be looking at playing games though that aren’t available on the Switch. As much as I would love to play Cyberpunk 2077 on Switch, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Aren’t first world problems the worst? ๐Ÿ™‚

So, you want to play certain games (or have a more extensive choice within particular game genres), you have two basic options.

And those options? PC or Console. Hah – you thought I was going to say PlayStation or Xbox, didn’t you? Well, this will boil down to that discussion. But first, I want to talk about why I amย notย talking about other options.

PlayStation or Xbox Alternatives

So I talked about the Switch in reasonable detail. It’s a great gaming experience and is a solid choice for gamers as their only device. Because it’s portable, I class it as a portable console. If the Switch works for you, you already know why, so I don’t need to compare it to other consoles here.

Something I have looked at a lot (and made grabby hands for but can’t justify) is multi-arcade home cabinets. I would love one of these. I technically have the skills to build my own – well, electronics side. Rabbit’s assistance would probably be needed for cabinet building. After all, you have to know your strengths and limits.

As cool as these cabinets are, they have a limited retro library and cost a lot. They also take up a lot of room – not always practical. I would love a room full of pinball machines with an arcade cabinet in one corner, but that takes a lot of power, space and maintenance. I can’t justify the time and money required for me. If this is what you are looking at doing, go for it and know I am incredibly jealous. But like the Retro Handhelds I touched on in the last piece, I think this setup is a niche one, so I won’t talk about it any more.

Home Arcade
I would love a setup like this. But there is more than just the $ holding me back

Retro or ‘mini’ consoles are also an alternative. I have almost all of the mini-consoles I want, which I love. But I don’t play on them very often. I consider these consoles a niche nostalgia purchase as well. Sure, you game on them, but you are limiting your choices to the included titles.

The prominent alternative is, of course, PC gaming. Making a mini-PC to sit under your TV is a popular build, and so plenty of cases now allow you to install beefy graphics cards.

I am not putting PC gaming in today because even though you might put it in as a console, it is still PC gaming. PC gaming is great and offers many more hardware choices than consoles. It also comes with much higher costs than consoles.

Mega Drive Mini
Mini or Classic consoles are a great toy, but they aren't much more than that these days

Over the coming weeks, I will be talking about PC building and various componenets with all the pros and cons a lot. Also, comparing even the Xbox One X (the fastest console hardware right now) to a mid-tier PC is as unfair as comparing it to the Switch. Different target goals, different equipment, different experiences possible. Each will give you an enjoyable gaming experience, but the ‘good, better, best’ comparison will be made – especially if you have access to all three.

So to keep things simple and as Talking Tech is more for people just starting in video gaming, spoiler alert – Console Gaming wins for at-home gaming. Now to look at what console would best suit you.

What about next-gen? Will you be comparing PS5 and Xbox Series X as well?

Not really. I will be touching on some confirmed features when comparing the current generation of consoles, and describe my plans for the next console as of today. But for now, I won’t be describing the gaming experience on next-gen consoles. Why not? Because it’s all guesswork.

As I am writing this, Microsoft has revealed a bunch of hard technical specs for the Xbox Series X. I believe when this article is released, Sony will have finished their technical system presentation.

These specs are great, but numbers aren’t everything. A lot of this information is also being presented with marketing spin. I am not saying that the data is wrong, but we all know numbers can be presented to give a better impression than what you see in reality.

For example, Xbox’s 12 teraflops is a fantastic amount of computational power. That’s cool! What does it mean for you right now? Very little. It’s just a number. Even with that power available, until developers can make use of that capacity, it doesn’t mean much. It’s like having a car with a top speed of 400 km/hr. Until you can go somewhere you can drive at those speeds, it’s nice to see on your speedo, but it doesn’t truly help your daily drive to work.

Xbox Series X Specs
The specs sounds impressive (and they are), but they aren't everything

A hard detail is the Xbox Series X will have expandable SSD drives. I think this is great. Storage has always been a concern for me on a console. No pricing was given, so I don’t think it’s an attractive feature – yet. These are custom drives, so I am expecting a price jump on what I can buy NVMe for my PC.

What’s good to know that I can use an external drive for backwards compatible games (Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One) and the Series X will need the new internal or custom expansion drives.

Xbox Series X Expansion Drive
Easy to use expandable and portable drives are something that people can evaluate today

This feature is a detail I can evaluate today. Game load times from an external drive will be about the same (maybe slightly better depending on your external drive) as what I have now. So I can use my 2TB external that I currently use for video capture as my ‘old’ games library drive, and the performance is what I have now – an immediately known quantity. This quantity is something that you can decide if you need now or even pre-plan for, but it doesn’t sound as catchy as ’12 teraflops!’.

This difference in information and its overall impact on your daily gaming experience is what I will continue to refer to as Marketing Hype. Remember, both PS5 and Series X are mostly running the same hardware. The differences are how the respective companies tweak their designs.

Think of it this way – you want a 2070 Super graphics card. One from Asus has higher numbers here, one from Gigabyte has better figures there. Which one do you choose?

Both are 2070 Super Graphics cards, and that gives you a baseline expected gaming experience. If a manufacturer makes a card that doesn’t meet that minimum expectation, the internet screams about it. Consoles are the same thing, just for more than one component. So while I am excited about the next generation of consoles, keep in mind a lot of what we will be seeing is Marketing Hype. At least until around October/November when reviewers get their hands on actual hardware and titles.

Also, keep in mind next-gen will be more expensive than the current hardware as well. Why do I say this? Because for the first time, console hardware is going to be ‘better’ than mainstream PC hardware.

RTX 2070 Graphics Cards
Each card is right for different reasons, but mostly you can't pick the wrong one

Wait, console will be better than PC?

Overall, no. Technology jumps, and while the new consoles will be ‘better’ than a lot of computers we use today, it’s only for a little while. The new consoles have access to tech that just hasn’t quite cracked the PC market – it’s available, we are just waiting for someone to sell it to us.

As advanced as the newer generations of consoles are, they are still mainly PCs. Not everyone likes to admit this, though. They run CPUs, RAM and GPUs just like any PC build. Yes, the SoC (System on a Chip – the CPU and GPU combined) is custom-built for the console, but that doesn’t invalidate that it still uses PC parts. Many physically smaller PCs like the NUC systems use custom SoC in the same way consoles do.

Consoles traditionally have used components that have tried and true manufacturing methods and availability. Examples were things like slower hard drives when PC people had started moving to SSD drives. For not much money, you get lots of storage! However, it can take 2-3 minutes to load your game every time you die. Pros and Cons, always.

With this generation, it looks like the consoles will have access to new tech that hasn’t made it to PC users yet. So for modern consoles, for the first time, they aren’t built like computers 2-3 years earlier.

Pro – Sacrifices in new games won’t need to happen on a brand new console like this generation. Con – consumers will be paying a premium for new products, including padding for higher failer rates, production troubles and the like.

Xbox One X Components
The layout is a little different, but any PC or Laptop has the same core components

So what are you doing with the new generation?

Barring what I think are lousy business or hardware choices when all the details about PlayStation 5 come out, I will be buying one. I am a Sony Fanboy, as I have said.

As for the Xbox Series X, it looks like it’s going to be a great launch. But I won’t be upgrading my Xbox One S for a while. Microsoft has said no Series X exclusive games for a couple of years, so I can play anything I want on Xbox still. Once the manufacturing process has settled down, I should be able to get a second revision Xbox Series X with any hardware improvements made.

I have a friend who is doing the exact opposite of what I am doing – Xbox Series X day one, PlayStation 5 maybe down the line. This plan (for both of us) is what I call ‘Fanboy Thinking’ – you have already made up your mind to get something based on brand loyalty over facts.

I am saying this upfront as an example of doing what I say, not what I do. The decision to stick to PlayStation 5 is a byproduct of my 25 years with PlayStation. S’s decision is a byproduct of her long experience with Xbox. The purpose of Talking Tech isn’t to tell you that my choice is the right one, but to help you decide what is right for you.

So should I wait to buy my first console when the next generation is released?

If you are looking at buying your first console, I would suggest a current-gen console with all the production kinks all worked out over the PS5 or Xbox Series X.

The end of life current-gen consoles are now almost always on sale – this helps the costs. Buying an established product minimises the chance of faulty products and some things that can reduce your experience. For example, when playing Destiny 2 my original PS4 Pro sounds like an aeroplane. I have barely heard my Death Stranding PS4 Pro fans at all. It’s not a better console – it’s just had a manufacturing revision that lets it run quieter. A ‘faulty’ product would be the Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death.

The drawback of waiting is potentially missing out on some unique upgrades. You won’t have the super-fast load times of the next generation, for example. This is why I appreciate Microsoft committing that first-party games won’t be Series X exclusive for a couple of years – you know you won’t be missing out. But any decision you make on next-generation consoles will be a best guess decision. My advice is to wait and see what the consoles can do close to release when people have actual products.

Xbox One X EB Games
It's a guess, but the top of the line Xbox now will be about half the cost of the Series X

So if you decide to buy current-gen, looking at the PS4 and Xbox is exactly with me will be exactly what you need! If you choose to go next-gen only and wait, good news – looking at what the systems offer now is still what you need ๐Ÿ˜€ There is more to a console than just the hardware, and I will be looking at the current ecosystems as well. While it might all change for the next generation, you should have a firm understanding of what they are changing from to let you know what works for you.

So PlayStation vs Xbox – what are we looking at?

I hope today you can look at the information coming out on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and feel comfortable that you shouldn’t understand what they can offer you fully just yet. Until you can see one running (or listen to someone you trust what they say about their hands-on experience), it’s all an unknown.

So in Part 2, I will start delving into the pros and cons of the PlayStation and Xbox One families. Not just the base console hardware, but the services, ecosystem and additional abilities of the consoles as well. PSVR vs 4K Blu Rays for example.

Questions?

Again, this is all a lot to take in, and I kind of jumped to why you shouldn’t stress about next-gen today. I tried to explain all the main concepts, but this is all complex stuff.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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?ย 

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.ย 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.ย 

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.ย 

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

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜›

What about you?ย  I hope you got some great games in.ย  Or are you looking forward to a new one?ย  Let me know!ย  Shout out onย Facebookย or @JohnHQLD me onย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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