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Review: Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PS4) ~ Where is Lara, Fraizer?

Wikipedia entry

After I have finished most of the Tomb Raider games, I wanted to play more adventure games like it. The only adventure games I knew that were on the market was the Uncharted series. One problem, I don’t own a PS4. But, my girlfriend NotThatAlice has a PS4 and kindly lend me her PS4 to play one of the Uncharted games. Now, how do these games play for a big Tomb Raider fan? Did I compare these games to Tomb Raider or did it manage to stand out as it’s own thing. Let’s take a look at the final game in the series, Uncharted – The Lost Legacy. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of the article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Where is Lara, Fraizer?

In this game, you play as Chloe Fraizer. You are hired for a job finding something that your father was after. You meet up with Nadine, where you find a disc that is in Asav’s possession, the bad guy of this game. After you are able to steal it, you go on a wild adventure finding a special artifact.

Storywise, this game reminded me a lot of the first Tomb Raider game. the one were Lara’s bonds with her friends just get formed. But, the interaction of Chloe and Nadine reminded me a lot of Bioshock Infinite as well. Especially between Elisabeth and Booker. But explaining that would get me into spoiler territory.

Maybe it’s my bias talking here, but I enjoyed the story in the Tomb Raider games a bit more than the story in this game. It’s also possible that I watched a bit too many Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider-style movies to easily pick up on the various tropes used in these kind of stories. The story of this game does nothing really new, nothing to stand out in the competition.

With that said, I don’t mean that the story of this game is bad or mediocre. Far from that. The story, the pacing and the writing is quite well done. I especially liked the quite human interaction between the main characters. Personally, I felt that the main bad guy Asav was underwritten. With that I mean that most of his personality is explained through dialogue from other people. This is a big missed oppertunity since the voice actor really nails his role.

Now, speaking about the voice acting, I have both heard the Dutch and English voice acting. Why Dutch? Because that’s my native language and modern gaming consoles always set language and voice acting to Dutch automatically when it’s available because I live in Belgium. The voice work in both languages is amazing. I enjoyed the Asav in the English version more than in the Dutch version but I enjoyed Chloe a bit more in the Dutch version.

Shoot those enemies

In the gameplay department, I felt that this game was a mixture between Tomb Raider and Bioshock. The puzzle and platforming felt like a real Tomb Raider game, but the combat felt like a mix between Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider.

Let’s talk about the combat first. You can obtain weapons and ammo from defeated enemies or by hacking crates. The way you hack into crates is extremely simple. You have to turn the left joystick until you feel the controller vibrate. At that point you need to find the correct spot, where the lock icon turns green and hold it there. This is one of the easiest lock picking mini games I have ever played.

During most of the combat, you get the aid of Nadine who takes out enemies on her own. She also gives remarks on your shooting, especially when you helped her or not. So, compare her to Elisabeth but then without searching for supplies.

At first, I was quite afraid of the combat. Personally, I thought that shooters wouldn’t work on consoles that well. I’m so used to aiming with the mouse, I thought that controllers wouldn’t be able to live up to that experience. But, this game pleasantly surprised me. While the shooting is assisted with some automatic lock on system, the combat is still enjoyable. It didn’t take long before I got used to aiming with the controller and I was breezing through the combat. My girlfriend started this game on the easiest difficulty level. I increased the difficulty level to have some more challenge.

Something that did disappoint me were the puzzles in this game. Sometimes when I played a Tomb Raider game, I really needed to think were to jump next and look around in the room. Perhaps, I’m getting quite efficient in playing these games but I felt that the puzzles were extremely lacking in this game. There were some creative puzzles and really enjoyable puzzles but I didn’t feel challenged enough by the puzzles. I felt that there could be so much more opportunities in this game for better puzzles.

I had the same feeling with big parts of the platforming. I was playing most of this game on auto-pilot. I still enjoyed myself but I didn’t feel the adrenaline rush I feel when I play a Tomb Raider game. So, yes, I’m stating that the recent Tomb Raider games have better gameplay than Uncharted The Lost Legacy. But, does that make this game bad? Well, no. Not in the slightest.

This game was quite enjoyable from start to finish. The pacing was fantastic. There wasn’t too much combat nor was there too much down time. Something I really loved in this game were the bonus features you could unlock with the treasures. In the Tomb Raider games, the treasures give you a bit more backstory of the location Lara is at. In this game, you get points that you can spend on costumes for the characters, good ol’ cheats, filters, gameplay modifiers and special weapons. Now, this adds a ton of replay value to the game. Now that I have finished the game, I want to replay the whole game with filters and game play modifiers.

And snap!

Now, you have most likely already noticed it from the screenshots that this game looks amazing. The visual presentation of this game is outstanding. I really felt home as a Tomb Raider player in this game.

Something I also really liked in this game were the little touches on the characters. For example, whenever you fell into mud, you get mud on your clothes, but that gets washed away as soon as you walk through some water. Or the characters shaking their hands dry whenever they exit the water. These are amazing touches.

Together with amazing music and sound design, the audiovisual presentation is one of the strongest points of this game. And on top of that, the filters you can use can make this game even more funny to play through.

Just like in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you also have a photo mode where you can easily snap screenshots to share online or use in an article. Now, this is a fun bonus feature and one that I might use a bit more with the unlocked special filters.

So, during this game you visit various locations. From deserts to jungles, this game has it all. I already raved about the outstanding visual presentation with rich detail, great lighting and amazing set pieces. But, if the game has control issues or has an unstable frame rate, than you are unable to enjoy that.

During my playthrough, I noticed some minor slowdowns. Only once or twice during heavy combat. But, in most cases the game ran perfectly and stable.

The controls reacted perfectly. It didn’t take long for me to adjust to the PS4 controller, after playing so much games with the XBOX 360 controller on my PC. It didn’t take long before the controller became second nature to me. Now, one thing I didn’t like was the mechanic to switch weapons. For that you have to use the arrow keys. I felt that the touch pad on the PS4 controller could have been a better choice for this.

Now, there was one thing I really disliked and that was something in the final level. That final level kept dragging on and on. I thought it would never end. Something I didn’t like either were the fist-to-fist combat sections with Asav. I felt that the game was a bit unresponsive at times and I barely knew what I should do.

The biggest let down for me is the fact that this game was only 8 hours long. I was able to finish this game in one weekend. Now, I haven’t unlocked all the bonus items nor have I collected all the trophies. These also help with the replay value of this game. That’s something that somewhat makes up for the short game length.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article. What did I think in summary of this game? Let’s find out! Now, I did leave some things out about the gameplay and story on purpose. I wanted to leave those things as a nice surprise if you are interested in playing this game.

Summary

The bad:

-The fist fights.

-The puzzles should have been more challenging.

-The length.

The good:

+ Amazing audio visual presentation.

+ A ton of replay value.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

You might have noticed it while reading this review, I have compared this game quite a lot to the Tomb Raider series. While I was playing this game, I did get a lot of Tomb Raider vibes. So, when you enjoy the latest Tomb Raider games, I would highly recommend this game. You will enjoy it quite a lot.

While I think that the Tomb Raider games are the better games, I wouldn’t say that this Uncharted game is a bad game. Maybe I’m a bit biased… Now, if you love adventure games and exploring huge area’s to try and solve puzzles, you really should give this game a go.

I’m also quite thankful to my girlfriend for lending me her PS4 and a copy of this game. I’m so happy that I was able to enjoy this game. Because I enjoyed this game so much, I’m going to give the other Uncharted games a chance in the near future.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 80/100

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Meet notthatalice, answering questions…

NekoJonez asked me to write a post to answer some basic questions about myself. For people that didn’t know it yet, I’m Jonez’ girlfriend. I’m not a professional blogger myself, yet, so I’m sorry in advance if this post seems a little weird…

(Editor Jonez note: This post is a reply to a previous article written by NekoJonez about a blogging award)

Why did you start your blog?

I used to write stories when i was really young, most of them were fantasy or love stories. I still remember i kept rewriting a story about a family of unicorns. Or also the one story where the enemy troops were Greek sauces…

I told NekoJonez that I wanted to pick up writing again and he was so kind to offer me to write a post on his site. I guess this is my first official blog post now.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

I make up a lot of stories in my head. Most if those are love stories with a hint of bad-boy vs. good girl.

If I can go a little bit further, i like making ‘posts’ (more like English oral exercises) about my favorite books, English history, movies, strange places.

I’ve been taking evening courses of English for adults. This year my speaking exercise was about the Parisian catacombs. You could say this was one of my favorite topics.

How would you describe yourself if you could only use gaming terms?

I would probably be the yellow Kirby. So basically, the supporting player.

Who would be the worst video game character to be stuck in a lift with?

I admit i have to say i’d also choose Zero, but all Zero’s…

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

The title would be upside down wonderland. The genre would probably be adventure, platform and something with healing items…

Also, since a lot of people helped me through harder times, I would probably have allies and items to make me stronger.

Which three video game items would you take into the zombie apocalypse?

Probably the cheats from unreal tournament that’ll give me infinite health and ammo, Indiana Jones’ whip to grab food and other necessary items and Kirby for the companionship and the cuteness :p

Which gaming character should we elect as our next prime minister and why?

I guess I’d take Lara Croft or Junpei from the Zero Escape series. They both seem like honest, admirable people with a sense of extraordinary strength on several zones…

Jonez’ Questions

If your life has a soundtrack, which genre would it be?

My life has had it’s ups and downs. I like to imagine my soundtrack as symphonic metal, with snippets of ballads in it.

On happy days, my life would be accompanied by musical songs from the phantom of the opera, grease,…

You are a parent of a video game character, who would you pick as your child and why?

Probably Clover or Quark from the Nonary Games. They seem like happy-go-lucky children whom are also very smart.

Which video game character you don’t want to meet in a mental asylum?

Zero, Mathias from Tomb Raider (2013) and technically everyone from unreal tournament cause they look creepy.

I’d like to meet Kirby to find out what makes him have his magic powers.

Would you rather go to Silent Hill or Raccoon City?

To be honest, I haven’t played a lot of horror games, because I like action games more. I choose Silent Hill because Raccoon City looks like you wouldn’t possibly leave the city unharmed while in Silent Hill you still have a chance of survival.

If real life had video game cheats, which ONE cheat would you like to have and why?

i would like to cheat life by being able to fly. I would get everywhere without getting hurt (I’m kinda clumsy). I also wouldn’t have to learn how to drive a car and would be able to get everywhere without having to wait in line.

Meet me

I decided to write a small introduction. I’m Jonez’ girlfriend of like 3 months.

Before meeting him, i only played life is strange and unreal tournament. After being introduced to several games, my favorites are now: Lara Croft Tomb Raider and Fire Emblem Warriors.

I spent my free time by reading, listening to music, gaming (duh) and watching series.

Nice to meet y’all and feel free to leave a comment

Notthatalice

Publishing: Suicide Guy – Sleeping Deeply is now out on PS4!

“Suicide Guy: Sleepin’ Deeply” is a new Chapter from the original Suicide Guy game series.

suicide guy sleeping deeply logo

The game is a first person action-puzzle game set in a world of dreams. You’ll assume the role of a nice big guy unable to wake up from his dreams. Your task is to help him to step out of them.

Features:

  • 3 to 4 hours of pure gameplay set inside Suicide Guy’s subconscious
  • A whole new story with an unexpected plot twist
  • Physics based levels
  • Ultimate moves: able to pick up items, throw them, activate mechanisms and even burp.
  • Funny creatures to annoy
  • Vehicles to drive
  • New Collectible items to find

Gamers will have to use different items in every kind of situation by solving original brain teasers. Despite the title, the game is NOT at all about suicide or depression.

Link to the game on the PS4: https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP2659-CUSA14842_00-0000000000000000

More information can be found in the presskit: https://www.igdb.com/games/suicide-guy-sleepin-deeply/presskit

Link to my first impression of the PC version.

Publishing: Suicide Guy now out for PS4 & Nintendo Switch

I’m writing to you to let you know that our new game “Suicide Guy” is out today on the Nintendo eShop and PlayStation 4!

Editor note: This is a press kit from the developer. I, NekoJonez, have nothing to do with the development of this game. I’m only here sharing information about it to promote it. 🙂

CoverVideo6

“Suicide Guy” is a first-person action-puzzle game set in a world of dreams.

You’ll assume the role of a nice big guy unable to wake up from his dreams. Your task is to help him to step out of them.

Features:

 

  • 25 levels set inside Suicide Guy’s mind
  • Story-driven game
  • Physics-based levels
  • Ultimate moves: be able to pick up items, throw them, activate mechanisms and even burp.
  • Funny creatures to annoy
  • Vehicles to drive
  • An important mission to accomplish
  • Collectible items to find

Gamers will have to use different items in every kind of situation by solving original brain teasers.


Despite the title, the game is NOT at all about suicide or depression.

eShop page: https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/suicide-guy-switch

PlayStation Store: https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP2796-CUSA11124_00-0000000000000000

Trailer of the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUCki6EwCFw&t=4s

Official website: https://chubbypixel.com/games/suicide-guy/

SquareBanner2

Review from my friend: https://overthinkeryblog.com/2017/11/06/roughly-an-hour-with-suicide-guy/

Publishing: Astounding Gaming Stats Revealed

If you’re a gamer yourself, or a gaming widow / orphan / parent, you’ll already be acutely aware of the amount of time and money games can sap from life. But, as recent research has shown, it’s not necessarily all bad.

According to statistics, laparoscopic surgeons who played video games for more than three hours per week made 32 per cent fewer errors than those who didn’t. Gaming has also been linked to a reduction in dementia risk, pain relief, overcoming dyslexia and even making us more motivated in real life too. If you’re an anti-gamer, this probably isn’t what you wanted to hear, but the fact remains that love it or hate it, gaming is here to stay.
Things sure have come a long way since the 8-bit entertainment of the 80’s, and today video games are a multibillion dollar industry. In fact, the largest gaming company today is tipped to become the world’s biggest company by 2025. That’s right, even bigger than Apple!

Here we’ll reveal some of the most astounding statistics about gaming in the 21st century, from who’s playing to how old they are and even how much they pay (or earn) through their gaming lifestyle. Shake off your preconceptions about gaming and let’s see what the truth is about this much-loved pastime worldwide.

Check this Infographic made by Filmora team and share your opinions with us!

video-game-trends-and-stats.png

 

Game Review: Mad Max

Some of you may be familiar with Mad Max, but some of you won’t. So what is Mad Max? In one word: glorious.Image result for mad max

I mean that in the truest sense of the word. It feels out of this world. At first glance, one might think it’s they are over-the-top movies, but they’re much, much more than that.

Everything in this world feels painfully real. The suffering, the tragedies, the characters, the wasteland, … The films have a very distinct style that has influenced pop culture more than you might think: it launched Mel Gibson’s career, the raiders in Fallout are heavily inspired by those in Mad Max and it spawned countless rip-offs by Italian and Turkish directors, as well as American ones. I feel like I need to discuss the films briefly before getting to the game. After all, that is what inspired its creators to make the game.

The great thing about the Mad Max films – and the game – is that they all feel different. The first film was very grounded in reality and quite slow-paced, though that is not a bad thing. The second film, The Road Warrior, was generally considered to be the best one. It established the character as he is still known and loved. He’s deeply flawed and haunted by his past, but that makes him feel very real. The third film, Beyond Thunderdome, has its problems; most of them caused by Hollywood mingling. And then there’re last year’s Fury Road, now regarded as the best of all four films. Tom Hardy plays Mad Max, not Mel Gibson, and his performance is excellent.

Now Max is a bit of a difficult character to talk about, because he is both simple and complex at the same time. He’s simple, because most of his actions throughout the films and game are selfish. Even helping people is often because it makes things more convenient for him, but at the same time he won’t harm the innocent. He doesn’t really care about who lives or dies, as this is a harsh world and survival is key, but he won’t just kill anyone for the sake of killing or just for fun. It is a very hard thing to explain. It’s almost instinctive. You just understand him on an emotional level, not an intellectual one. You just know if something is in-character for him to do or not, but you can’t really explain why. I say this, because there’s something I want to discuss at the end of this article after the SPOILERS warning.

Now onto the game! I’m not exactly sure when the game is set in the timeline, but it feels like it takes place right before the events of the fourth film: Fury Road. But, like with the entire Mad Max saga, the exact time has never been important. You start off the game losing the famous Interceptor, the car Max drives, and battling Lord Scrotus. You put a chainsaw through his skull, but he survives and throws you off a fast moving truck. You then set out on a very simple quest: get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus. This is very much in theme with the films, where the story is often quite simple and just a structure for strong characters.

And strong characters is what this game has. The portrayal of Max is pretty much spot-on (except for a little thing that bugs me in the ending). You find a hunchback named Chumbucket who is a car nut and believes you are some sort of Saint sent by the Angel to clear the wasteland. He offers you a car that you can upgrade and change the appearance of during the game. He is a fantastic character, obsessed with cars and fixing cars and thinking you’re some sort of deity. And of course, Max goes along with it, because it helps him. Where in other games having a companion around can be frustrating, Chumbucket is nothing but helpful. He brings you the car when you signal him with a flare gun, fixes the car when it’s damaged and most of his dialogue is really entertaining.

Visually, the game encapsulates the look and feel of the films very well. It’s a gorgeous game with a wonderful art style. The graphics won’t blow you away, but it’s not trying to either. It’s aiming for aesthetics rather the latest and greatest in graphical settings.

The story is very simple, as I mentioned before. There isn’t that much to talk about here, other than that it’s very much in theme with the films. The end goal is to get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus, but it can take you a while to get there. You can choose to just follow the main quests and do the bare minimum to unlock new upgrades for your car, so you can continue with the missions, but that will make the game a lot more difficult. Still, you’ll probably have to put in twelve to fifteen hours to beat this game in a hurry.

As a sort of side story, you can try to loosen the grip that Lord Scrotus has on the different regions by doing certain mini missions. You can clear out camps, destroy their totems and sniping towers, clear minefields, et cetera. Lowering the threat levels in regions unlocks more upgrades for Max and his car. This is where the game really shines in my eyes, as it makes the gameplay more varied. Clearing the camps requires more combat, destroying the totems and sniping towers is mostly done from inside the car and you need a special buggy that can carry the mine-sniffing dog to clear out minefields. Some camps have difficult bosses or certain things you have to destroy. Having done almost everything there is to do in this game, I racked up a very respectable 54 hours in this game. Not bad at all for having paid less than €15 for it in a Steam sale.

There aren’t a whole lot of negative to this game, I feel. The driving controls could’ve been tighter, but most of the time they’re just fine. Two locations in the game are locked off after the mission is over, which means that if you didn’t pick up the collectables or scrap, they’ll be lost forever. This is odd, since none of the other locations become inaccessible. Lastly (and I’ll get into more detail in a bit) there’s one thing that happens right at the end that I feel is out of character for Max, which makes the ending a bit less enjoyable for me.

So overall I highly recommend it if you like the Mad Max films, but even as a general gamer, it’s a very fun game. The combat is fun, modding the car gives you lots of options and the characters are very enjoyable. The highest praise I could possibly give it is that if  I were to rank this game alongside the films, the order would be (from best to “worst”): Fury Road – THIS GAME – Road Warrior – Original Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome. So yeah, very close second 🙂

 

 

–SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE GAME BELOW–

 

 

This is what happens at the end of the game that bothers me a bit. After the final boss battle, we see the truck that Lord Scrotus is driving close to the edge of a cliff. Max decides to ram it with his car and Chumbucket, still believing the car is the sacred tool, sent by the Angel to be used by you, doesn’t want you to destroy it. While charging at the truck, he climbs on the bonnet of the car, trying to convince you to stop. Max tells him to jump of and Chumbucket says he’s willing to die with the car. Max then proceeds to jump out of the car, right before it hits the truck and both vehicles fall off the cliff. I know Max is a character who will do pretty much anything to achieve his goal, but I feel like killing Chumbucket was very much out of character. Max doesn’t hurt people, unless he feels it’s absolutely necessary and I feel like killing Chumbucket was not. You may disagree with that, but it’s how I feel about it.

First Impressions: Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain

Due to delivery issues in my country, I had to wait until the ninth of September before I could get my hands on the PC version of MGS V. I’m someone who prefers physical media, so even though I could’ve bought it earlier on Steam, I wanted the actual disc. The wait was worth it. Something really great happened in the first fifteen minutes of the game that just got me hooked. It may be the greatest thing I have ever seen in a game. Beware: SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST THREE HOURS OR SO AHEAD.

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of the series. I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. Years even. It’s almost as if the setting of this game has been perfectly altered to my preferences. It’s set in 1984, my favourite year in history, also in my favourite decade. The year that in my eyes epitomises the ’80s. You also play with my favourite character of the series: Big Boss.

After the events of the previous prologue game (that was only about 90 minutes long), MGS V: Ground Zeroes, Big Boss wakes up in a hospital from a coma he’d been in for nine years. This is where something great happens. I don’t know if people have been picking up on this and I haven’t been looking around on the Internet, since I am trying to avoid any and all spoilers. Any content whatsoever.

MIRROR

About fifteen minutes into the game, the doctor tells you people are still looking for you, wanting to kill you. For your own safety, you should change your appearance. This is when we get a very well done character creation screen where we get to change our face. There are a hell of a lot of options, almost as if you are creating your own Sim in the Sims.

Now here’s what makes this great. I was worried about this. I wanted to play with Big Boss as I knew him, so I tried to create a character that kind of looked like the older, grey haired Big Boss. After I was done, though, I was pleasantly surprised. The doctor gets killed before he can carry out the operations. You are still Big Boss.

I really hope this never gets brought up, ever again in the game. Not because I don’t want to change Big Boss’s appearance (which is also true), but because this would make it the single greatest joke I have ever seen in a game. If this is never mentioned again, the creators of the game spent a great deal of time coding a character creation screen that works really well, and all of that for a joke. Possibly it’s a tool they created in-engine to make their own characters to make development easier, but still. I’m a little afraid it’s going to be brought up again, but I remain hopeful.

I feel it’s maybe a nod to MGS 2, where you start the game playing as Solid Snake, but the second part (and majority) is played with Raiden, an all-new character. This displeased many gamers, so it would be funny if that is part of why this was put into the game. For a second, it looked like they were pulling a similar kind of trick; making us think we’re going to play with Big Boss, but forcing us to change his appearance. Then they pull the rug out from under us. “Nah, we’d never do that to you again.” It feels like they’re saying with a smile.

But what about the game itself? I played through the entire prologue, the hospital section, in about an hour. Truth be told, it is not the best gameplay ever, and it uses a trope I don’t very much care for. I’d describe it as a playable cutscene, where you take a few dozen steps or perform a few little actions and the game takes over for a few minutes, showing us more of what’s going on with the story.

I remember people complaining that MGS 4 had too many and too lengthy cutscenes. This was something that never bothered me, since I love the story, but I can understand the complaints. The ending cutscene was a little shy of an hour, so I feel like in MGS V, they have made a compromise. Instead of having the first hour be an hour long cutscene, it has some sort of gameplay. All in all, despite not liking this trope in general, I was deeply engrossed in what was going on, making this still very enjoyable.

After that, the game really starts and we are dropped in a very expansive, open world. You wander around Afghanistan looking for a captured friend. How you tackle this mission is all up to you. Will you visit a few outposts first, gathering intel, or will you go to where he’s captured right away? It’s all up to you. This is where the game really comes to life. The amount of player choice and agency is incredible, and perhaps a stark contrast when compared with the first hour, but I understand why that had to be done. It’s like the first act of a movie: you need to establish the world and the situation, so I’m not upset at all.

So gameplay is great and the visuals? They’re stunning. Digital Foundry did an article about the PC version, which is incredibly well optimised. (This is also pretty much the only content on the Internet about MGS V I looked at.) Even low-end CPU’s like an i3 can run this game, no problem, provided you have a decent GPU. The standard graphical settings come very close to the PS4 and XBone settings, but when you bear in mind that most of those are set at “HIGH” or “MEDIUM”, you can imagine how gorgeous this game looks at “ULTRA” settings.

Fortunately, my GPU’s are beefy enough to handle the highest possible settings. A high draw distance, loads of post-processing effects, high quality lighting and textures, and even volumetric clouds. The first three hours seem very promising. I love the visuals, the gameplay is great and the story already has me hooked, so guess what I’ll be doing today?

Review: Papo & Yo – Artsy Fartsy?

A while back, this game I had never heard of came with the monthly games you receive as a PlayStation Plus member. I played it for half an hour then, but I put down the controller and removed it at that time. I decided to give it another try and I just felt like I had to discuss it.

Because it’s good? No. Maybe. Hard to say. It was fun enough that I played through it, but it didn’t need to be much longer. The game wrapped up in just under four hours for me, but then again, I’m a slow gamer. In wanting to write a review about this, I decided to do a second play-through to gather all 25 collectibles and got halfway in just an hour. Knowing how to solve the puzzles makes it incredibly easy.

So what is the game about? You’re a little kid being transported to a slightly peculiar world, where you meet a little girl who taunts you and runs away. You decide to follow her. Later, you encounter a monster that follows you along the way.

It’s a little hard to explain what his part in all this is, but he’s a part of puzzles. You need to use fruit to lure him somewhere in order to progress, or have him fall asleep so you can jump on his belly. It sounds a little ridiculous, and it almost feels that way at times.

The puzzles themselves are okay. They’re not great or even good, but at least they’re not infuriating. The most difficult – and perhaps aggravating – puzzles are those where the monster is angry, because he ate a frog. Then, it will chase you and throw you around. You need rotten fruit to calm him down again. Yes, really. I’m not making this up.

Graphically, what can I say? It’s an Unreal Engine 3 game. It doesn’t look impressive, and is bugged by frame rate dips and tearing, but overall it’s fine. Just that. Fine. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons uses the same engine and, while plagued by tearing as well at times, looks far more impressive than Papo & Yo does. Especially the worldbuilding and environments.

The controls are good, though. I rarely missed a jump and that’s not always a given in 3D-platforming games, so kudos for that.

My main problem lies with the story. Mind you, I will go into spoilers here, but if you have half a brain, the intro of the game basically tells you everything you need to know. Now if it were a much simpler story, I’d be fine with it. Perhaps a story of a boy trapped in a fantasy world, trying to escape. Think The Unfinished Swan. It wouldn’t need much rewriting either. Or perhaps the girl took something from you and you need to get it back.

The problem is that, to me, it felt like the creators wanted to make a game with storytelling similar to Shadow of the Colossus, but failed. It’s easy to criticise, I know, but it feels like the kind of story a first year student of film school would come up with.

There’s not much dialogue in the game, and what’s being said does not sound like any language I ever heard. Speech bubbles do appear next to the characters when they say something.

Now brace yourselves, because you will not see this one coming. Especially not after the intro, and the first flashback about an hour into the game where you see yourself sitting in the back of a car being driven by an adult male. Oh, and there’s a quote, from the game director himself, saying: “To my mother, brothers and sisters with whom I survived the monster in my father”, right when you start the game. The monster is your father, the frogs represent his alcohol abuse and the girl was the person you father hit with his car.

I had a suspicion this game was fairly personal, from the director’s own experience. Looking up some information about the game confirms this. I don’t mine a personal story done well, but I just feel like this game is laying it on thick. It feels like they’re trying to be subtle and use metaphors, but it’s so blatant.

I feel like I’m being really harsh on the game, but in all honesty, it’s not terrible. I’m just very sensitive when it comes to metaphors and artsy fartsy storytelling. Would I recommend it?Perhaps. I know of people who have very much enjoyed this game, so who am I to take that away from them?

What does strike me as odd is that most outlets give this a positive review. The only major outlet that gave it a bad one, was IGN. “The on-paper premise of a traumatic childhood brought to life as a playable short story is brilliant, but the wounded execution can’t quite sell the emotional expression.”, is what they had to say and I tend to agree a little.

I guess it’s a decent game if you like that kind of story, but if you’re looking for interesting puzzles, you’d better look elsewhere. It’s also an easy game for completionists and trophy/achievement hunters, as my two playthroughs gave me a lot of trophies in a total playtime of around six hours.

Eighth Gen Talk – Continued Thoughts and MGS2

A while ago I wrote a 1600 word behemoth talking about my thoughts on the current generation of games consoles and the state of gaming. I recently played a game that made me feel even more strongly about this. Basically, it concerns the second-to-last paragraph talking about innovation in games. I’d like to talk just a little more about that. I promise: this article will be a little shorter.

Image result for firewatchThis all started last week when I was talking to my cousin about the seventeen minute gameplay video of Firewatch. That game looks incredible. Even if it’s not open world and more linear than it appears, I cannot wait for it to come out. If you don’t know what Firewatch is, I’ll briefly explain. It’s a game about you, some guy, starting a job as a forest overseer in the eighties, and things happen in the woods which you have to deal with. The gameplay video looks like I could absolutely loose myself in that world.

After our discussion about the video, I talked about my favourite game series of all time: Metal Gear. It had been a while since I played through all games, but I picked it up a few weeks ago and I’m up to Metal Gear Solid 2 as of now. Even though I have played this game several times, I was really intrigued by it this time. It has never been one of my favourites in the series, but in light of recent developments in the gaming industry, I now look at it with a whole fresh perspective.

The first section of the game takes place on a large tanker ship. It is here that I started to pay more attention to the game’s mechanics, looks and details than before. The first thing was the lighting. This game uses dynamic lights and shadows in many places. When the enemy is close to you and the flash light on their weapons shine on you, it appears like there are light shafts and your body interacts with it. I am sure this isn’t a true volumetric light source, since that technology was not in place in the early 2000’s and is very computationally intensive, but it still looks impressive. Especially considering this game was released in 2001. Let that sink in for a second. That’s fourteen years ago.

Sure, this game doesn’t have the most incredible graphics by today’s standards, but at the time (and especially for an early PS2 game), this game looked incredible. Frankly, I still think it does. It has an aesthetic, which is more important than graphics, and it’s what a lot of modern AAA-games seem to miss.

Truly impressive, though, are the details. On this tanker is a crew lounge filled with lovely little details that make the worlds feel so much richer. There’s a plasma TV playing and when you shoot it, it breaks. The screen doesn’t just go blank; it starts to go black in a circle around where the bullet hit and goes outwards until the whole screen is black. A magazine rack is also present. If you shoot the individual magazines, they fall on the floor. They might be upside down, open or lying on the front page, and when shot again, they change position.

There’s a pane of bullet proof glass (seen above), but when shot about twenty times, it breaks into a million pieces. Again, like the TV, it starts to break where you last shot and it goes outwards from there. In the corner of the room is a bar (also seen above), stocked with glasses and bottles that all break and fall differently. Shoot at the plants, and leaves fall off and they wiggle.

Later on there is a boss battle with a female character named Fortune. The explosions in that fight cause the lights on the ceiling to swing, making the shadows on the ground change and again adding to the believability of this world.

These things are not new in modern games, but they were then. This game tried to push a new system further than any other game of its time. Mind you that this game did not compromise on its resolution and played at 60 frames per second. Knowing this, makes it look even more impressive.

The current generation seems to rely too heavily on things that have been established in the generation before (PS3/360), and to some extent even the one before that (PS2/Xbox). Aside from looking prettier, there seems to be little new. Little that is pushing better hardware, and that’s sad.

Eighth Gen Talk – Thoughts So Far

A year and a half ago, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released, and with E3 on our doorstep, it is perhaps a good idea to look at what the eighth console generation has brought to the table thus far. Has it succeeded or did my reservations prove to be true?

From an economic standpoint, it is an obvious success. This generation of consoles is the fastest growing of all. Demand for both consoles was high from day one and sales have vastly surpassed both manufacturers’ expectations. As of this writing, and the most current data available, Sony announced having sold 20.2 million units early March, but Microsoft’s figures aren’t as comprehensive. Sources vary, but it’s somewhere between 10 and 12 million. Sony’s platform is in a clear lead and it makes some sense. From the beginning, the PlayStation was the cheapest console, as back then the Xbox shipped with Kinect. Microsoft also had many policies people did not agree with; always having to be connected to the internet, not being able to lend games to friends, and so on. Sony happily attacked these policies and it worked. For a while at least, because luckily, Microsoft has been smart enough to make significant changes, including selling the Xbox without the Kinect as mandatory. Sony’s platform also appears to be the most powerful, at least on paper.

But is it enough? Two years ago both consoles were announced, in great detail, and their architecture is remarkably similar. This is where things get a bit technical. Both SKU’s use AMD hardware, for both CPU’s and GPU’s, and feature an eight-core CPU clocked at 1.6GHz, similar GPU’s clocked at 800MHz and 8GB of RAM. There were some differences, though, with Sony’s platform seemingly standing out. First and foremost, the 8GB of memory in the Xbox is DDR3, significantly slower to the PS4’s 8GB of GDDR5 memory. The Xbox does have 32MB of ultra-fast ES-RAM working in tandem with the other 8GB, hoping to close the performance gap. The PS4, though, has an additional 256MB of DDR3 memory and a second small, low-power CPU for background tasks. Later, Microsoft announced it would increase the performance of their consoles by increasing the clock speed of the CPU from 1.6GHz to 1.75GHZ, while also increasing the GPU speed from 800MHz to 853MHz. This closed the gap even further, but Sony’s platform still stands out. The GPU is inherently faster, with 18 compute units compared to the Xbox’s 12, and is coupled to faster memory. As it stands now, Sony’s GPU outperforms Microsoft’s at 1.84 TFLOPS to 1.31.

That brings me to my reservations. These figures are impressive when compared to the seventh generation, but don’t wow me. These consoles felt outdated before they were even launched. It is certainly true that the architecture of a console should not directly be compared to a PC. Developers can code games for a closed system, therefore using the components to their fullest potential, while also being able to optimise the code for that one specific system. To get a similar graphical fidelity and performance on a PC, we should compare it to a computer with a third to half the performance increase. At first I thought the relatively low performance figures wouldn’t be such an issue, since – as I said – this is dedicated hardware. It’s also very close to PC hardware, making coding even easier and thus allowing developers to optimise their games even more. But eighteen months after launch, I am worried this generation will not turn out as great as the one we just left behind us.

Launch games never really impress us, that much is true, but we have passed the launch window a while ago and there’s not much out there that makes me hungry for this generation. There’s Microsoft’s Sunset Overdrive, a game that knows it’s a game and runs with it. It’s silly, bright, colourful and fun. Very much unlike the gritty, brown and gray “realistic” games we mostly get. There’s also Sony’s Bloodborne. True, it’s Dark Souls/Demon’s Souls in a new skin, but it’s a good game nonetheless. Both games are not really my personal taste, but I can acknowledge them as good games. This console generation has already seen a multitude of games being re-released. It made more sense in the previous generation, where we saw a plethora of HD-remakes. There at least, the games came from the SD-era. There’s GTA V, Borderlands, The Last of Us, Diablo 3, DmC, Tomb Raider, the horrendously plagued Master Chief Collection and many more. It’s also not stopping, with games like Devil May Cry 4, God of War 3 and Final Fantasy X/X-2 remakes coming along shortly. And let’s not forget that the majority of games that have been released until now, have been sequels, prequels or some form of re-imagining of previously existing material. Are you enjoying your “new” games so far?

When the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were released, both consoles were claimed to be capable of playing 1080p games. In actuality, those platforms were more like 720p consoles. There are some games that run at 1080p, but most of them are smaller titles. A lot of games – even console exclusives – ran at an even lower resolution than 720p. Halo 3 is one, at 1152×640. The very popular Call of Duty series often ran at an even lower 1024×600. Again, with this generation, 1080p gaming is promised and already not being delivered. Lots of games run at lower resolution settings, often 1600×900. This is also where we see the disadvantages of Microsoft’s platform, with games running at a lower resolution than their Sony counterpart. Battlefield 4 runs at 900p as compared to Sony’s 1080p and Call of Duty: Ghosts produced a meagre 720p, though this was later changed in a patch. Even the Xbox exclusive Titanfall runs at the odd resolution of 1408×792, on an engine that is essentially a modified version of Valve’s Source engine; a very stable, scalable and reliable engine. Still, the console struggles at maintaining its targeted 60 frames per second.

0Let’s take Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as another example. This game is yet another title that was first released on previous generation consoles and is now released again on the current one. Looking at the PC system requirements of this game shows us this is not a very intensive game. Minimum requirements are a low-powered Dual Core CPU, with recommended settings asking for a low-powered Quad Core CPU and medium-range graphics cards that were released four(!) years ago. It makes sense that this game doesn’t require a €1000 gaming rig, since it’s built on a modified Unreal Engine. This is – like the Source Engine – a well established, stable engine. And yet, these brand new consoles that are supposedly so powerful struggle with this game. Performance dwindles around 45 FPS in areas where you need it most: during combat. This also brings with it a great deal of screen tearing. While not a bad result per se, not a result we should expect from these consoles.

Obviously, I am also aware many people can’t afford high-end PC’s or prefer to play on consoles. It is especially for them that I am worried, since they can’t find a better experience of multi-platform games elsewhere. They have to play them on closed systems. They can’t lower graphical settings, or enable or disable V-sync, to change the look or performance of the game. I can choose to go for the PC version. Of course developers get more comfortable with consoles and manage to squeeze out more as time goes on. Look back at Naughty Dog’s games and look at the difference in quality between the first Uncharted and The Last of Us, running on the same, but tweaked engine. Or even Uncharted and its sequel, the release of which was only two years in between. It’s a world of difference, but if consoles already seem to struggle with games across the board, whether it’s performance wise, visually, or – in case of games Assassin’s Creed: Unity – both, what’s next?

All of this doesn’t seem to bode well for these consoles. Initially, I had reservations on the technology being used, but I imagined with this being dedicated, and from PC originating hardware, the theoretical shortcomings would be proven wrong in reality. However, after eighteen months, I’m not convinced (yet). Graphics are good, but not impressive. Especially when compared to the jump in quality from previous consoles to their next generation. Think back to the difference from PS1 to PS2, or PS2 to PS3.

Shiny graphics are nice, but what we need, Image result for no man's skyand really need, is innovation in gameplay. Not yet another cover-based, gritty, third person shooter. Not innovation in quality of visuals, but innovation in mechanics. One game I do keep my eye on, is No Man’s Sky; ambitious and innovative. I surely hope it lives up to its claims, as that might – at last – convince me to buy a current generation console. We need innovation in things like physics and AI; larger, more varied worlds full of life and little details that make it all feel rich in atmosphere. Frankly, I am bored with the triple-a games as of late. I sorely hope I am mistaken and things turn around for the better, but looking at the release schedule for the coming months (or even years), I’m afraid I may be right.

To close this article, I’d like to add a little something. I am a big fan of RedLetterMedia and their gaming part: Previously Recorded. Rather than stealing what they have to say about games, I want to link to their YouTube channel. Particularly to their reviews. The ones that I think lie closest to what I agree with are the reviews on The Order 1886, Alien: Isolation, Bloodborne and their video called “Why Mario is more Immersive than Call of Duty“.

EDIT: I wrote a follow-up article here.