Posted in Gaming, Review

Console Wars

With Xbox recently showing their hand there’s much to be said about Sony and Microsoft’s movements leading up to the fall. For a large part there seems to be factions of fans sided with each company willing to die for them, arguing on Twitter and bleeding blue or green.

What Did Xbox Have to Say Then?

This time last week Phil Spencer introduced us to some of the projects and games we can expect to see on the Xbox Series X. They led with Halo: Infinite their launch title and possibly Xbox’s biggest exclusive franchise.

Not exactly breath-taking graphically.

It wasn’t the most welcomed look either, despite good numbers on Youtube. The graphics seemed to be somewhat lacklustre for a next gen game. Its possibly the biggest talking point for Halo at the moment and ammo for those in blue.

It had other features unseen before, seemingly being more open world than linear like previous games. The gunplay and enemies seemed to be reprised from the original games and the cut scenes promise a story worth telling.

After Halo however, it was rather forgetful. We saw a teaser for Forza, but that’s it, a small reveal type look. We saw a teaser for Fable (I’m generous when I say teaser) and the same for Avowed, Obsidians Elder Scrolls knock off. There were a bunch of games from all over the genre spectrum and some Microsoft exclusives but nothing too worth mentioning. I say Microsoft as they seem to be aiming for PC/Xbox crossplay/save.

So Who Has the Upper Hand?

This all depends on your approach to gaming. Sony have been quite vocal in their approach and their intentions for next gen.

Sony are ready to leave PS4 behind, with new titles being PS5 only.

For Sony, next gen is the future and the past is to be left behind. Their showcase backed this as well as they seem to be closer to launching more next gen titles than Microsoft. They have had a stronger showing so far in terms of games and exclusives. Arguably Spider-Man has as much attention as Halo, and it’s only a large DLC.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales has stated 4k 60FPS resolution on PS5.

Sony’s console is probably the only thing that hasn’t been received with applause and anticipation. Its clunky and looks kinda weird. Especially next to Xbox’s simple rectangle design. For Sony they would consider this a win, all aspects considered.

Xbox, while having a more attractive console, are lagging behind when it comes to games. They have all their eggs in Halo’s basket in terms of launch title exclusives and are relying on third parties from Ubisoft and CD Projeckt Red to boost their library out of the gate. They’re also looking backwards to games intended for the One.

What Xbox do have is Gamepass. With Gamepass they are significantly lowering the paywall entry into next gen and full priced titles at ~£70. They have secured Destiny 2’s content on Gamepass and promise titles such as Halo: Infinite and Forza for a tenner a month.

In a nutshell for the price of 2 games at release cost, you can game for a year with the Gamepass library. That is huge, but it’s the only thing Microsoft and Xbox are banking on to boost sales after a poor showing for the One series.

Sony on Top?

I would say overall Sony has generated a bigger buzz. It currently leads the console market in sales and has a prestige library of exclusives in its repertoire. When we think of gaming we want the best games and Cyberpunk, Valhalla, Godfall and Spider-Man are all coming to PlayStation by the end of the year, whereas Xbox will only receive half of them.

When push comes to shove, Xbox’s hand will start to prove dominant. Not many of us can afford to keep up a hobby that costs 60-70 of our currency each game. With Gamepass there will be access to a massive back catalog and next gen games which will prove more valuable to some than 1 or 2 top tier entries for PlayStation can do.

I would say that quality is louder than quantity and for this Sony is on top, especially out of the gate. Xbox are looking to multiplayer and community within their games whereas Sony are looking for quality and critically acclaimed titles.

My advice would always be to play with your friends or where your favourite games are at. I can’t bear the thought of not having access to Spider-Man: Miles Morales or God of War 5 (rumoured to be announced next month). So I’ll see you on PlayStation.

Posted in Gaming, Review

The Last of Us Part 2

So I finally finished my first playthrough of the much anticipated sequel to The Last of Us, PlayStations most highly rated exclusive title. While the game is stellar in some ways I was ultimately left unsatisfied with my experience.

Warning: SPOILERS. It lets me talk openly about this game.

Story

The Last of Us Part 2 carries on 4 years after the events of the first film, in which Joel and Ellie have found a permanent settlement in Jackson. They have joined Joel’s brother Tommy to help be part of a thriving environment contributing their own skills.

The story takes some bold decisions and takes them early. Joel is killed. Brutally and in front of Ellie screaming for mercy.

This fills Ellie with hatred and a thirst for revenge that Tommy is reluctant to at first. After all, everything was almost perfect in Jackson. Ellie manages to convince him and Dina that they should go after Abby, Joel’s killer and sets up the plot.

This story is all about revenge. In some ways it uses the characters from The Last of Us to tell this. For the first 10-15 hours you play as Ellie tracking down the location of Abby and her band of friends from a group called ‘WLF’.

During this part I was generally satisfied with where the story was going. Ellie’s need for revenge had no mercy but this led to her making decisions that you wouldn’t always agree with. In some ways I started to dislike Ellie as a person, where I previously held a lot of admiration.

I started to fall out of love with the game.

In a climatic turn of events, Abby actually finds Ellie and it all goes to shit. This character I started to dislike I was now worried for, maybe not for her death but for what this event might do to her after so many bad decisions.

Then the story stops. Why? So we get to see the last 3 days from Abby’s perspective. For me this is where I started to fall out of love with the game.

I think, like most people, I had no desire to understand the character of Abby. Unfortunately Naughty Dog don’t do anything with her character to change my mind.

Abby is one of those characters that’s just dislikeable. Her reputation is for killing ‘Scars’ a faction of believers that they should start again and are somewhat primitive in some ways.

Scars – a new faction of silent enemies.

She has her friend cheat on his pregnant partner with her and everyone around her starts to die.

This goes on for 10-15 hours and by the end of it, I just didn’t care. Then to top it all off I play as Abby in a fight against Ellie, almost killing her and Dina. She actually says ‘good’ when learning Dina is pregnant with a knife to her throat.

However after these events I felt some content. We see that Ellie and Dina have settled down with a family and have moved on. I would have been happy for it to end here. Ellie had seen the consequences of her actions and knew that revenge would only lead to despair or worse.

The last section of the game sees Ellie go back to find Abby as she cannot live with Joel’s death. This ends up destroying everything around her and she loses everything, her life with Dina, relationship with Tommy and herself in so many ways.

Combat

The combat in this game is very good in the most part. Like the original game I’m given the choice of stealth, all guns blazing or a blend of both. The skill trees are okay, but I’m not sure I liked them as they lacked choice and the weapons are good.

There are some new enemies that are silent, so your listening mechanic is kinda pointless at times and you can only fight in reaction to your environment.

There’s too many fist fights that are boss battles and a knock back mechanic that is frustrating as its totally random (I got knocked back by arrows, pistol bullets and sniper rounds).

The game is still satisfying to play though. It probably has the best combat for a survival horror game it really is that good.

Environment

This is where the game is at its best. The environments were and are amazing. They feel real, alive and dangerous. I found myself constantly saying ‘makes sense’ when finding bits and areas.

The game looks, probably, the best of any game out currently.

I was just in constant awe of how this game looks and feels technically. I just wish I hadn’t played what for me was the best section of the game as Abby.

You fight through a hotel and eventually a hospital against infected and it’s just amazing. I kept thinking, as Ellie I would be so engrossed right now, but part of me just wanted it over.

In Summary

My initial reaction after finishing the game was ‘what’s the point?’

I really felt that this story didn’t enhance on what we had from the first game. Ellie became unlikable, Abby is unlikable and Joel is barely anywhere to be seen. We have some flash backs that just break your heart as you eventually learn at the end of the game Ellie hadn’t forgiven Joel, but wanted to.

This left me rethinking her motives the whole time. It seemed that she didn’t need revenge at the cost of everything because in some ways Joel had taken her meaning away from her. What she had as a result of realising her truth was a life she could make for herself (and did).

Ellie and Dina

I would have liked to see Ellie maybe not kill Abby but save her from the infection (we’re told she gets bitten) as mercy and taking Lev (Abby’s equivalent to Joel’s Ellie), back to Jackson.

The idea that revenge brings peace is one I can’t get behind. I also love a happy ending and this game doesn’t give it. Its such a poor ending.

As a result the game ends up feeling detached from its characters of the first one and becomes a commentary of the world as a whole. It looks the best of probably any game currently out, plays amazingly but ultimately poor story decisions, terrible pacing, and a lack of interesting characters leaves an unsatisfying game.

PlayStation 5 Showcase Summary

Last night (11/06) PlayStation had their first showcase for their next generation of games for their next console. I thought I’d summarise what was shown and my highlights.

The Console.

Firstly the console design was showcased right at the very end. It was probably what people were actually tuning in for as much as what games to expect. Fair to say, it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Personally I think it looks like a wireless router. While I like the white design they have adopted, I’m not so sure this works as well. In addition to the disk drive looking like an attachment, it’s just not as sleek as previous consoles.

Apparently it can be laid horizontally.

They also showed a bunch of themed accessories, I would assume for optional purchases including a headset, ‘media remote’ and a HD camera (I assume for those that want easy streaming?).

Regardless, I think the way it looks is possibly the least important part of the console overall, so lets move on.

First up, I know this is highly subjective but these are my personal standouts. First and foremost the one that has gotten everybody talking.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

At the time of writing this there is some confusion as to how this is being defined. Is it an expansion or stand alone title? Well from the looks of it, it’s both.

Miles Morales has his own story to tell and he’s telling it at the end of the year. It is a stand alone upgrade to Spider-Man but also expands on the current world they have built for Peter.

Looks to be set a couple years later. Morales has grown a bit!

Insomniac have promised some enhancements to performance and graphics as well as delivering a story for Miles. Personally I can’t wait. Spider-Man was excellent, maybe not the best but still very good, my full thoughts are here.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

This is the game that’s left me excited. It’s from Ember Studios and came out of nowhere to almost steal the show.

This game is gorgeous.

Kena is an action adventure game coming at the end of the year. While not too much is known, what we saw looked really promising. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Godfall

This is a game we’ve known about for a while. More was shown in the showcase and I’m pretty much fully sold. My only question is this, does it have enough to separate it from God of War?

Godfall promises great action combat, weapons and armour. Not much has been said about the story or the world it is set in.

It looks very God of War premise, you are out to take down the gods in a Monster Hunter style, you kill them and wear their armour and equip their weapons.

The upcoming ‘looter-slasher’ is on my to-do list for 2020.

Horizon II: Forbidden West

So, I need to confess. I have yet to play Horizon Zero Dawn (I will, promise) but that doesn’t mean this looks any worse. It was the final game in the showcase and probably the hardest hitting.

I was hoping for Uncharted 5 after playing Uncharted 4 recently, but I’ll settle for this as we have Last of Us 2 next week.

Horizon II carries on from the first game, whatever that might be (I kinda know tbh) with new monsters and what looks like a whole new world to explore as Aloy.

Although it’s not out for a while it still has many people excited. It looks phenomenal and will likely be the first game to show off the capabilities of the PlayStation 5 software.

Best of the Rest.

There were a lot more games shown. The full showcase can be found over on their blog.

Some other standout games were:

Resident Evil: VIIIage (Village). The next chapter in Capcom’s series promising an end to Chris’ story. Set in an eerie looking village that seems to be hosting all sorts including cults, worship and monsters. This will surely bring out a trademark Resident Evil scare.

Returnal. An odd looking Sci-Fi shooter. We didn’t see much other than a woman in a space suit in unfamiliar territory. Some gameplay was shown that displayed it as a third person shooter adventure game.

Project Athia. Square Enix showed of a new IP during the showcase. This picture seems to be what they’ve come up with so far. Knowing Square its probably stunning to look at and most likely a high quality game. Its unclear of much else at this stage.

Some really nice looking worlds being built. Project Athia is only one example.

Deathloop: Finally I’ll tell you about Deathloop. Its a shooter from Bethesda Softworks that pits you in a endless cycle of kill and be killed. Each time you start again in groundhog day fashion you learn more and more. The trouble is you’re against someone doing the same thing and they’re out to get you before you them. I was won over in the end.

Summary

To conclude there was so much to look forward to. I think this only about 15% of everything we saw. Rachet and Clank had their say. New Little Big Planet, Astro, Gran Turismo and more all shown off.

I think it sealed the fact I want a PlayStation going forward. I’m late to the PS4 party but it feels better than my Xbox and I wouldn’t be losing any IPs carrying on with PlayStation. I hope the rest of my friends follow!