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So About Them “Videogames”, March 2014

March 14, 2014

ようこそ!ようこそ!March marks the month in which video games are happening! Two of the year’s big releases, Titanfall and Dark Souls II are now available, and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is riiiight around the corner, which I’m anticipating quite a bit.
While the weather has been erratic lately, producing a couple very “outside weather” days, I’ve spent all of my free time this past month indoors, safe from things like sunlight, though I have had much joy out of having a window open again after an incredibly stuffy Winter.

 

What I’ve been playing:
Since I was mostly a 360 guy over the vast majority of the previous generation, there are several Playstation exclusive franchises that I missed out on entirely (Uncharted is a big one for example), as well as some one-off games I’ve been wanting to play since they were released but I’ve have had no way to do so (such as Twisted Metal [Twisted Metal 2 got a loooot of attention in our household when we were in school] and Valkyria Chronicles). There are a ton of games for the system which I’d love to play, so the prospect of buying next gen consoles, when there would be a huge library of games that I could likely find for very cheap for Playstation 3 had me prepared to put off my next gen console purchase for the time being.
And then the unexpected happened; while every online retailer I had checked was either asking more than the standard price or was out of stock entirely, a late night visit to a local Wal-Mart wannabe produced an unlikely sight: A single PS4 console, resting inside its display case begging for a warm home.
So despite myself, in a moment of weakness, I grabbed it.
Here’s what I think of the system so far as well as some of the games (but not all of them) which I’ve played on it thus far:

PlayStation-4-box-cover-artThe System: 
It was sort of interesting watching the evolution of the previous generation of consoles’ respective services, and how things such as Facebook and Twitter and Youtube have grown, and bled over into games.
I get the impression (as of course I would; it’s pretty obvious) that the PS4 was built with social media (especially Facebook) in mind, and if there are two things I’ve been impressed by with the system so far, the social media hooks built into the system which can be accessed by a few mere button presses are easily one of them.

As someone who has considered streaming video games to sites such as Jtv and Twitch at several points in the past, but who found the idea of purchasing expensive (if you’re wanting to broadcast in HD) hardware and wrestle with very non-user friendly tools too daunting to go through with it, the way all you need to do to broadcast your games on the PS4 is input some account information and have a connection capable enough (though there are options for video quality) is amazing. I doubt it’ll get much use (at least in the near future), but I have gotten a good amount of use out of the Facebook video and screenshot sharing functions, which can be accessed via the same Share button on your controller.
The console is always recording your last fifteen minutes, so if something bizarre or noteworthy occurs, all you need to do to show the world (or in my case, your Facebook acquaintances) is press the Share button, hit upload video, trim out the parts you don’t need (if necessary), and then push it out. You can go back to your game and continue as you were while it uploads in the background (though, and I haven’t tested it, but I would assume multiplayer connectivity may suffer).
It’s a wonderful concept, and aside from the system for some reason not having the footage I expected it to have, it seems to have been executed very well.

The other thing I’m impressed with is the controller. The 360 has what I would probably deem the best controller ever made, and my time with the PS3’s had left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
They’ve made a ton of improvements to the controller though. The thumbsticks are still a little loose for my personal tastes, but they’re positioned farther apart than before so you don’t find your thumbs rubbing together as much while playing first person shooters for example. Your fingers no longer feel as if they’re always sliding off of the L2 and R2 buttons either. The ergonomics of the device are far more comfortable, and overall, while the PS3 controller felt like it might snap in half if you weren’t careful, the PS4’s has a nice, solid feel to it.
There is a touch pad on the front which can be pressed inward anywhere on its surface, which, as the Share button is where you would expect Select to be previously, clicking the pad functions as the Select button. It has a satisfying click to it, and being able to click it in anywhere means you can reach over and hit it without reaching your thumb out too far.
The top of the controller sports a light bar, which might change color depending on what is taking place in the game (it will go from white to pale green when you toggle on your night vision in Outlast for an example), and there is also a speaker on the front, which I promptly disabled (the Wii gave me my fill of voices coming out of my controller).
One of my favorite features of the controller is the headphone jack. Headphone jacks are hardly cutting edge technology, but being able to pipe all of the PS4’s audio out through headphones connected to your controller is a great feature, especially for someone like myself who almost always has a pair of headphones on, and in some shape or another, has every system’s audio funneled through my PC.

How games are installed (or delivered when buying digital versions) is pretty interesting, too. In several cases (Battlefield 4/Call of Duty: Ghosts) I have been able to download a small section of the game (3 gigs or so worth) and play while the network continues to download and install the rest of the game in the background. In Call of Duty: Ghosts’ case, I was even asked which portion of the game I would like to start up first, Campaign or Multiplayer.
This is an amazing feature, because both BF4 and Ghosts are around 30 gigs total, so downloading them in their entirety would take (on my ~2 mb/s connection) several hours. It’s worth saying, however, that on my connection at least, I did find myself running into the wall of how much of the games have been installed so far, so I’d have to wait around 10 minutes at a time to continue each game’s respective campaign.

If I were to voice some minor complaints with the system so far, I’d say that the lack of a download pause button or method of queuing downloads to be downloaded in a certain order is a bummer. If you have 3-4 things going all at once, none of them are going to get finished quickly.
It would also be nice to be able to disable voice on a system level. While it’s great hearing what the colorful characters of the wild west of the internet have to say, some days (read: every day) you don’t want to hear it.
There is an option to make it so that only friends can send you messages though, which after one angry, terribly composed message was sent to me after a match of Battlefield 4’s multiplayer, I was very happy to enable.
Also, while of course one wasn’t needed at this point, I thought it was nice of them to include an HDMI cable with the system. It only took a generation of systems shipping with composite cables for them to get the picture (The HD picture. See what I did there?)

I feel like I’ve gotten a nice enough cross-section of different genres and budgets to see that the PS4 is of course an entirely competent machine, and while currently it changes depending on the game, I feel like I’ve seen glimpses of how amazing games can look on next gen hardware as well.
Maybe the leap isn’t as profound as standard definition to HD was, but it is a profound leap nonetheless.

 

dfsafsaAssassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag:
The most stable of the big budget games I’ve played on the system. Assassin’s Creed 4 hasn’t bugged out, failed to connect to anything or outright crash (so far), but it also isn’t the most visually impressive thing I’ve seen either. Black Flag looks like a late generation 360/PS3 game, but without the shoddy frame-rate issues that have cropped up over the past few years. When set beside Battlefield 4 (more on that in a moment), I wish they could have given us 60 fps, but if 30 means it never goes below 30, I suppose it works out. (…I suppose..)
The game itself is great though! Ever since I played The Wind Waker I’ve been salivating for another big open world game which takes place on the ocean. My idea for the perfect seafaring game would be The Elder Scrolls on the ocean, but I feel like Black Flag has gone beyond what I imagined such a game might be like.
They seem to have thrown a lot of the previous AC games’ plot away (which, coming from someone who skipped AC3 but has heard from multiple places where the plot goes in that game, isn’t such a bad thing), and after the first few hours, which do a good job at teaching you about all of the various side-missions and the like you’re able to do, there is a lot of freedom in what you choose to do and when.
Aside from the mainline story, the game is chock-full of side content, from assassination contracts to harpoon-fishing to attacking trade convoys for materials to sell or upgrade your ship with; once you have the ocean out in front of you, there’s never a lull in things to do or see.
The lessened emphasis on storytelling and large amount of time spent sailing your ship out at sea makes Black Flag feel much different than previous games in the series, but still recognizable once you get on land and start getting into combat. It’s a great balance of old and new gameplay systems, and while I think this game may give me my fill for pirating on the high seas, I am quite curious where they might take this series next.
I’m about a third of the way through the main story so far, so time will tell if the ship combat and exploring all of the small islands and port towns to collect each collectible will eventually wear out its charm, but so far AC4: Black Flag has been a blast.
There’s also the multiplayer. Moving on…

 

outlast-boxart-cover-gamecloudOutlast:
In Outlast, you play as a reporter headed to an asylum to investigate the supposed dark business taking place within its walls. Once you’re there, it becomes clear pretty quickly that you might not escape with your life, as seemingly around every corner is one of the asylum’s denizens waiting to end you.
I haven’t progressed very far into Outlast thus far, and this is mostly because this game is incredibly stressful. It trades off of the tension produced by shoving a jump-scare in your face and then having you wander around expecting more and more of them which never come.
The game has a found footage aspect to it, where a tap of the R1 button will bring up a handheld camera. Aspects of the plot can’t be discovered without having your camera up (which typically results in you simply having it up at all times), and its night vision mode is absolutely necessary for navigating the game’s pitch dark environments. While there is no penalty associated with having your camera up, utilizing its night vision drains your battery very quickly (because all of the batteries in the asylum are bone dry or something I guess?), which produces opportunity for being chased through the dark and having to drop the camera down for a moment to slap new batteries into it, making encounters in the dark especially stressful.
The story goes to some places I was sort of bummed out by pretty early on, but the gameplay is terrific. While I got the game for free through Playstation Plus, I could most certainly see myself shelling out the $20 asking price, and if you haven’t played it, it’s also available on Steam (likely for a cheaper asking price). It isn’t a bad looking game though, so if you’re like me and have an older PC, it may be difficult to run.

 

battlefield-4-ps4-box-artbattlefield-4---achievements-and-trophies-guide-gamedynamo-lgwoiqbtBattlefield 4:
While Resogun’s fountains of particles and Outlast’s sharp and smooth visuals were impressive, it wasn’t until I started up Battlefield 4’s campaign where my jaw dropped, and I thought to myself “There is no way this would be possible on previous gen hardware.”
It isn’t only the sharpness of the picture or the resolution of the textures, but for me it was how you get both of those things coupled with a blistering fast frame-rate. A frame-rate which, at least in the campaign, doesn’t nudge, making things like explosions quite spectacular.
Aside from eye-candy though, unfortunately there’s nothing in this campaign that you haven’t seen or played before in past Call of Duty or Battlefield games. (But boy… that eye-candy.)
One of the primary reasons I was interested in the PS4/One versions of Battlefield 4 is that the multiplayer player count is no longer limited, allowing for full 64 player matches. What this means is that gone (for the most part) are the countless moments of trekking across a seemingly vacant battlefield in effort to get the drop on someone (or have them get the drop on me) as was the case with Battlefield 3 on the consoles, and instead, almost every match is complete chaos. One of my favorite new features in Battlefield 4’s multiplayer are the way levels will change over the course of a match. The well-known example would be a skyscraper being destroyed and littering the area with debris, but the two I especially like are more aesthetic, with one map that begins at nighttime and then as time progresses, the sun begins to rise, basking the battlefield in orange light. In another, the battle takes place on a series of islands resting under a clear blue sky with the sun shining, which becomes an ocean-churning storm by the end of the match.
Given that a lot of the time, matches can take more than twenty minutes to complete, these large, level-altering transitions make them feel even larger than before.

Even with a face-lift and a PC-comparable player count, Battlefield is still Battlefield, so any issues you have with it are likely to still be present in this one.
The “anti-aircraft” launchers are still about as efficient at taking down airborne vehicles as tossing a shoe at them would be. There is no way (to my knowledge) to see your ping, and the DICE servers are unstable to say the least, so there’s no good way to tell whether you’re just playing like crap or if your connection to the server is crap. Nearly every multiplayer match is ripe with jankiness, with foot-high (no joke) obstacles that can’t be walked or mantled over, doors that are technically open but visually closed, debris floating in midair, and jittery animations to name just a few. There is also one gametype which is just plain broken on some maps; where on one the level boundaries aren’t present, allowing players to drive into the (terribly rendered) space on the periphery of the map that was meant to never be seen, and another where players can only be harmed by bullet-fire if they are themselves firing their weapon.
Sometimes this jankiness can add to the nonsensical fun of Battlefield’s sandbox, but a lot of the time it’s just plain frustrating.

 

CoD-GhostsCall of Duty: Ghosts:
Since I already own the 360 version of Ghosts, I had no real intention on checking out the next gen version, but there were a few factors which ultimately resulted in me downloading the digital PS4 version anyway (with one of the primary being I have a buddy who plays it on PS4).
Where Battlefield 4 had my jaw on the floor, Ghosts’ PS4 version sort of just had me scratching my head.
I can say with a straight face that if I stumbled across someone playing this version of the game, I would assume they were just playing the PS3 or 360 version. The visual quality, aside from being a little sharper here and having a slightly farther draw distance there, is at first glance, identical to the previous gen version.
Making this all the more confusing are the regular instances of frame rate slowdown that this game suffers from. This game doesn’t look that great; how is the frame rate a problem?
The load times when going into multiplayer matches (again, I have the digital version, so maybe the disc-based one is better) are also noticeably longer.
Poorly optimized I would assume.
I find that, just like with previous gen versions of Call of Duty games, I often boot up Ghosts with the intent of playing it, but then let it sit at the menus while I find excuses to do other things on the internet. By that token as well, the PS4 version of Ghosts is identical to the previous generations.
I’ve already reviewed Ghosts on the Soapbox, so I won’t bother repeating what I think of it, as this version is practically identical in every way (although there are no DLC custom class slots or character skins yet. What a… shame?).

Shiny next-gen coat of paint or no, between Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty:Ghosts, I think I’m mostly done with the hide-and-seek style of shooter. I would love to say “Maybe with new console hardware, the doors will open to new types of FPS experiences.”, but military shooters have been tremendously popular for a tremendously long time now, and I highly expect that this won’t be changing soon. They aren’t poorly made for the most part (looks at Battlefield 4’s jank); it’s just that they’ve existed in much the same form since Call of Duty 4.

 

There were some things I played that I didn’t mention of course. Resogun being a big one (It’s pretty good. If you like shooters, you should grab it if you haven’t already), but also some of the free to play stuff. I tried out the Final Fantasy 14 beta, and while it runs pretty nicely, having the squint at the tiny text font (some of which can be increased) and wrestle around with the intuative, but intimidating controller layout turned me off for it. Perhaps I’ll plug a keyboard and mouse in and try it once again once the full version is out.
I’ve also been playing Dark Souls II a little bit, but it’s still too early to have much to say about it other than “If you liked either of the previous Souls games, you will very likely enjoy this one too, as it is strikingly similar in many respects.” I may write up something talking about it at some point, but it seems like it can be summarized by that sentence alone. I’ve been enjoying it less than I remember enjoying Dark Souls 1, but I think a lot of that is due to not having as much free time to wander aimlessly around environments now as I did back when I played that one.
Busy. Late Feb and early March was busy for videogames (at least for this guy). I like it. And while my bank-roll may beg to differ, being able to finally see a next gen console in person has made me much more excited for the months to come.
‘Til next time.
次回まで

From → Games

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