Posts Tagged ‘playstation 4

Snap Judgment – inFAMOUS: Second Son (PS4)

The first time I saw a preview for inFAMOUS: Second Son, Sucker Punch’s third entry into the series and first on PlayStation 4, I was compelled to go back and make sure I finished the original PS3 titles.  If you’ve read my judgments on those (first and second), you’ll know I thoroughly enjoyed them, so I was definitely salivating for this one.

Look at any snapshot or gameplay video and you’ll realize immediately that this game looks ridiculously great.  For the first time in the series’s run, the setting is a real: Seattle, home of the creators.  While Empire City and New Marais were both fun locations to explore and wreck havoc within, running around an almost photorealistic city that is incredibly faithful to the real thing takes the impact to another level.  One of the best side effects of modeling a real city is that this one feels more alive and more varied from area to area, especially compared to some of the monotonous streets of the previous titles which featured numerous reused assets.  Now, Seattle gets a bum rap for being a rainy city (it was actually ranked 44th among major U.S. cities in 2010), but Sucker Punch was sure to include at least some of that world-famous precipitation in the game, and to wonderful effect.  The morning sunlight mirroring off scattered puddles during an early part of the game looked stunning; truly, this is one of the most beautiful games ever made.  Just scale a tall building and look over Puget Sound and have your breath taken away.

From a gameplay standpoint, the new protagonist, Delsin Rowe, has a far greater trove of powers to harvest.  I don’t want to spoil too much, but he possesses the ability to copy the powers of any conduit he touches, so as you progress through the game, whole new power trees will open up for you to invest points into.  (This is done with blast shards, but the manner in which you collect these is a so much better than the PS3 games.)  This upgrade system feels much more dynamic than ever, and the delineation between Good and Evil Karma powers is appropriately distinct.  Another massive improvement is environmental traversal: while inFAMOUS had decent climbing mechanics, there were times when it just didn’t work the way I wanted, or when it felt annoyingly slow; inFAMOUS 2 improved up these greatly, introducing a couple of powers towards the end of the game that really made cross-city travel much easier.  But inFAMOUS: Second Son puts both games to shame as each power tree that Delsin acquires has some kind of fast movement option that allows him to scale buildings with little effort, or cover ground with blazing speed.  Best of all, Sucker Punch does not hold back on giving you these abilities; you will be master of Seattle from the get-go.

The voice acting is quite good, featuring the incredibly talented Troy Baker in the lead role.  (Hardcore fans will recognize his work from The Last of Us, BioShock: Infinite, Batman: Arkham Origins, Far Cry 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, and what seems like a million other titles.)  That said, the dynamic between Delsin and his brother Reggie isn’t quite as good as was found between Cole McGrath and Zeke Dunbar from before, but the playfulness was still quite enjoyable.

Storywise, Second Son felt like a smaller plot than either previous inFAMOUS game, both of which felt like they had world-altering consequences.  Instead, Second Son feels like the world has already changed and the presence of conduits is simply a way of life now, something to be dealt with by law enforcement.  In fact, Delsin’s motivation for the entire game is considerably more tangible in its small scale, much more personal than Cole’s far more epic journey.  There are certainly pros and cons to both kinds of stories.  Similarly, alas, the villain comes off as considerably one-note throughout most of this game as well, similar to how antagonists were treated in earlier titles.  That’s okay, but the best villains are the ones who think they’re the heroes of their own stories.  Second Son’s Augustine borders on having that quality, but it remains unexplored until a brief expositional cutscene near the end, and even then, her methodology is inconsistent with her intentions.

Despite these shortcomings, inFAMOUS: Second Son is another incredible achievement.  Some reviews will probably note that the game is shorter than its forebears, but I happen to appreciate that.  Second Son feels about as on point as any game I’ve played in recent memory; as such, I would characterize this as a must-play for the PS4.  A

Written by Michael

11 September 2015 at 11:05 pm

Snap Judgment – Journey (PS4)

I originally reacted to this game in September 2013, but I did it the disservice of combining it with a bevy of other micro-reviews that I wanted to get out of the way.  Shame on me.  Journey deserved its own entry and perhaps more.  In many ways, it is the most succinctly brilliant two hours I’ve ever experienced in gaming or any other art form.

No, it doesn’t have the gameplay stylings, incredible voice acting, or writing of some of the games out there now, but it manages to convey so much with its groundbreaking visuals and inform so thoroughly with its bittersweet music — all without any dialogue or narration whatsoever.  Journey is a hallmark achievement, and is one of a very small selection of games that not only defined the seventh generation of consoles, but with its re-release on PS4, this one as well.

This version sees a bump up from 720p to 1080p, and 30fps to 60fps.  Truthfully, I’m not sure I notice this upgrade as much as I did with, say, Tomb Raider, but the graphics in Journey are the kind that’s breathtaking in any generation.  This fact only speaks to immense work Thatgamecompany did on its original release.  Journey‘s look is timeless.

Many, many outlets have extolled and regaled this game with the highest of accolades, but the most profound reaction I’ve heard to it was from Sony’s own President of Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, who was asked to rank his ten favorite games of the last generation.  Not only did he select Journey as his number one game, he became quite emotional when describing why.  Head to the 1:41:05 mark to hear.

Despite its brevity, Journey is mystery made flesh: the wonder it inspires in the player is a seemingly bottomless well.  A+

Written by Michael

1 August 2015 at 10:03 pm

Posted in Games, Reviews

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PlayStation 4 – Upgrading to a 2TB Hard Drive

It wasn’t very long ago that I thought that my 80GB PS3 held more storage than I would ever need for console games. After all, most of the data was still kept on the Blu-rays, and only saves and game updates were stored there otherwise. It wasn’t until downloadable games took off that I realized that I would need an order of magnitude or more space to house all of this data.

I was pleased that Sony elected to put a 500GB hard drive in the PS4, as I’m sure it’s more than sufficient for many gamers. I think I’m still in the minority as someone who has completely transitioned away from optical media to downloaded instead, however, so the rub is that while 500GB holds quite a few games, it’s not enough for a long-term collection. Sure, I could get in the habit of deleting games I wasn’t currently playing and re-download them later if needed. But that’s the kind of nuisance I do not want.

Another good thing that Sony did with its current-generation hardware, as it did with the last one, is use standard 2.5” laptop drives. This stands in stark contrast to Microsoft, which decided to use upgradeable but proprietary drives on the Xbox 360, and an inaccessible and un-upgradable unit in the Xbox One.1

Before this last year, the largest 2.5” drive that wasn’t a nonstandard thickness (which can happen, evidently) was 1.5TB, which is actually pretty decent in my mind. But I had heard of a 2TB drive at the desired thickness was due last year, so I put off any thoughts of upgrading until that product was released.

Unfortunately, purchasing one as a raw drive has been surprisingly difficult. For whatever reason, Samsung hasn’t been making them directly available, but another solution presented itself. Seagate created an external drive using that Samsung 2TB one inside. YouTubers by the dozens have posted how-to videos explaining the steps necessary to liberate said drive from its housing without damaging anything, so I patiently waited for the drive to reach the right price. That was last week when it fell to $80. So I ordered it and took the plunge.

Popping the enclosure open was perhaps the hardest thing I had to do in the whole process, as the retaining clips are fairly stubborn. But once I did, everything else was smooth. The first step was to back up my PS4 with all of its game installations, saves, and captured footage to an external drive. This is a feature that was only just added for version 2.5 released earlier this week, so the timing was perfect. Prior to this, you could not back up the installations, which would have made me re-download everything. This process took some eight hours, since I had 362GB to copy using a USB 2.0 connection. Thankfully, I was able to set this up before I went to work and it was about done when I got home.

Next up was opening the PS4. The glossy panel on the top the device pops off with only a small amount of effort, and once in, the hard drive mounting bracket can be released from the console chassis by removing one Phillips head screw.

Removing the hard drive from the mounting requires the removal of a further four screws that secure it at each corner, but this is all pretty straightforward as well.

Old drive out, new drive in. Once the PS4 was put back together, I only needed to make sure I had a USB drive with the latest firmware (about an 800MB download) plugged in. I started the PS4 in safe mode (you have to hold the power button down 7 seconds to reach it), and the console mostly did the rest with regard to the installation.

After that, I was able to go into the Settings menu of the PS4 and ask it to restore from my external backup. This took a further three hours to complete, which I let happen overnight. When I booted it the next morning, it let me know that it had completed everything and switched itself to Rest Mode to conserve power — A+ for that, Sony.

Aside from having to re-log in using my PlayStation Network credentials, it looked identical to what it was before the hard drive upgrade. Except now it has 2TB of space instead of a half terabyte.

If you’re toying with the idea of doing this yourself, rest assured that it’s not difficult at all.  Here is a link to Amazon for that very external drive if you’re feeling handy.

1. I believe Microsoft’s workaround is for consumers to attach external drives that will allow for installations there once the need arises. This is a nice solution, but I’m not in love with idea of leaving another peripheral in my entertainment center all the time, especially if it requires its own independent power source.

Written by Michael

8 April 2015 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Games

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PlayStation 4 v2.5 Update – Reaction

Sony recently released its v2.5 update for PS4, codenamed Yukimura. This is probably the most substantial revision the company has yet done for its current-generation console, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

PlayStation 4 v2.5 Update

Suspend/Resume: while PS4 owners have always been able to suspend the console into a low-power state, all this would allow for was faster booting previously. Open applications, including games, would be closed during this process. What this update adds is a feature promised by Mark Cerny at the PS4 reveal event and what was always available on Xbox One, which is the ability to suspend the applications as well, allowing for a seamless transition from suspend mode to gameplay I’ve only ever experienced on mobile devices. Why this took 16 months since the hardware launch to appear is unknown, but my personal hunch is that Sony didn’t conceive of this idea itself. Perhaps a third-party developer mentioned that Microsoft intended this for its then-unannounced next-generation console, and the PS4 team put it on their own drawing board late in the development cycle.

Whatever the case, it’s magnificent. For all the requested features I’ve seen people list on forums, this is by far the one that meant the most to me. You can get from an ostensibly off state to back inside the game you were playing in about twenty seconds. Doesn’t matter if it’s minutes, hours, or days later. This was high on my list of desired features going all the way back to the initial reveal.

Back-Up and Restore HDD to USB: this is a feature I did not expect to ever exist, insofar as the game installation backups were concerned. There was already a method for backing up game saves and media content, but I figured that Sony would not support anything related to game code backup for quasi-political reasons. Nevertheless, here it is, and it was damn useful for me just recently when I upgraded from the stock 500GB hard drive to a new 2TB one. That said, I wish there were an option to essentially clone the drive out to another USB connected one. That would have saved me a step — instead, I had to use a third drive to act as the carrier for the data before swapping in the new drive.

Find and Connect with Friends: the social media aspects of this generation don’t appeal to me that much, but I’m glad this is there for the people that have overlapping passions for both gaming and services like Facebook. That said, this feature also adds the ability to search your Friends list on PSN to see who else is playing the same game as you, which would be great if more of my friends were both gamers and PS4 owners.

Party-related functionality has also been improved, but that’s outside my wheelhouse. I gravitate towards single-player, story-heavy games, although I must admit that The Last of Us’s multiplayer is extraordinarily good.

Share Earned Trophies and Optimize Your Trophy List: there are a few features wrapped up in this one. First, the console will take automatic screenshots when you earn trophies. That’s cool, although I’m not sure I need a record of every bronze I earn. Second, you can share your earned trophies on social media. See my above reaction for my feelings on that. Perhaps most importantly, you can also remove games that have 0% completions, like a game someone else started while you were still logged in on your console, or something you tried and gave up on right away. I’ve actually accumulated a few of these across the different PlayStation devices I have, so this is appreciated. Deleting these declutters the trophy list and also improves an overall stat that measures your average completeness across all your games.

Improved and Expanded Accessibility Options: the addition of customized button reassignments is something that didn’t immediately resonate with me until it was explained that this is a boon to gamers who have disabilities. Moving controls to one side or off of a certain area presents critical opportunities for a large segment of players. Also added is a zoom and the option to invert colors, as well as enlarged text, bolder fonts, text-to-speech, and a higher contrast for those with sight deficiencies to round out this section.

While I hope to never need to use any of these additions, it’s encouraging to hear tech companies address usability issues like this.

Remote Play and Share Play: this function already existed for those with PS Vitas (like me!), but it allows for 60fps now. Although this wasn’t mentioned in these patch notes, the stability of the connection seems to have improved dramatically as well.  Games look very good, despite the compression.

Automatic Installation for System Software Updates: previously, the console could download updates, but it would not install them until you booted it again. That said, there’s a certain risk in allowing the console to complete the updates without your intervention. While it’s been a long while now, Sony did once brick a bunch of PS3s with faulty firmware. (This was correctable with a USB flash drive and a hot fix, but still. Who needs that?)

But I’m a dice roller, I guess, so I’ll leave this on and see what happens.

Sub-Account Upgrade: sub-accounts are meant for children so that they can share in the purchases of their parents, but not have the power to do anything that would get themselves into trouble. The problem was that there was no way to upgrade these accounts to full ones after these children turned 18, so any trophy progress was lost when they created a new ID. This is a welcome feature because it’s a signal that Sony is taking seriously the ability to manage the IDs granularly. With any luck, players will soon be able to change their names as well. (This is another area that Sony lags behind Microsoft on, the latter of which already offers strong ID management.)

Verified Accounts: this takes a page from Twitter, which also employs something similar. The intent here is that this will identify people involved with the game studios or with the PSN community in an official capacity.

I guess it’ll be cool to know that the guy that keeps killing you in your multiplayer matches is actually one of the developers.

Dailymotion: the Share button will now send videos to this service. Hooray?  My understanding is that this site is especially hospitable to game videos.

There was also an update for the phone and tablet applications, which has reorganized the interface and added more trophy controls.  While I appreciate this, this update does not seem to have added better support for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, meaning the application has a slightly soft look due to some stretching.  A minor issue, to be sure, but why not take care of this alongside this update?  These larger-screen iPhones were released back in late September, some six months as of this time.

Final Impressions

So far so good. The console is running very well, and the new features seem to be a hit with the consumers. I’m especially fond of that Suspend/Resume expansion, since I will literally interact with that every time I use the PS4.

But what else would I want down the line? More organizational options for the home screen would be a nice addition. Sony added a Library feature that stores all your games and apps that haven’t recently been used into a folder, decluttering the UI quite a bit. Previously, the console would display everything you had ever played or used, in order from most recent to least. This would create a seemingly endless strip, which was bound to become frustrating as players accumulated more things. Now, only the most recent ten items are in the strip.

But I think it would be cooler if I could also pin my favorite games and applications to that strip, holding them there regardless of the amount of items I’ve opened since I touched those. Further still, creating your own custom folders would be nice as well, for those of us who would probably sort games into different genres.

The other feature I’d like to see is more media center functionality. I don’t need it myself, but there are Redditors-a-plenty who wouldn’t stop bemoaning the fact that the PS4 lacked DLNA and MP3 support, while it’s predecessor, the PS3, had these from its launch back in 2006. I would like this to shut those guys up.

With regard to the multimedia capabilities, Sony did exactly what it should have, exactly what gamers expected, which was to make a games-centric device instead of a scattershot multimedia hub. There’s no pleasing everyone.

Written by Michael

7 April 2015 at 11:12 pm

Posted in Games, Reviews

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Snap Judgment – Contrast (PS4)

Contrast, from Compulsions Games, is in a word, enchanting.  You play as Dawn, the imaginary friend – as it were – of the story’s young protagonist, Didi.  Over the course of the games three-act story, you accompany and aid Didi in her quest to save help her father redeem himself and learn the truth about her parents’ past against the backdrop of an unnamed, 1920s-era Parisian-stye city.  The primary gameplay mechanic employed here is Dawn’s ability to shift in and out of shadows, which is used to great effect in the game’s many puzzles.  The heavy use of lighting and shadows, combined with the era its set in, gives the game a very noir feel, which makes it fairly unique in PS4’s library.

Contrast isn’t long: HowLongtoBeat.com rates it as 3.5 hours, which sounds about right.  Despite it’s brevity, the game’s story feels tight, so I wouldn’t necessarily want it to be longer.  At $14.99, it’s a fair buy if you’re looking for something different.  Gameplay-wise, it handles well enough, though there’s a looseness to the control of Dawn that I found a bit difficult to gain fine-tuned control over, but mistakes are easily overcome in most puzzles.  Moreover, this is one of the rare games that finding all the collectibles is worth your time, as it helps to clarify the game’s clever reveal at the climax.  (They are easy enough to locate by exploring the environments.)

When Contrast first debuted, it was taken to task for having a lot of frustrating bugs; I’m happy to report that these are seemingly fixed now, as I ran into none of them during my time with it.  I found it enjoyable, and I think everyone should give it a look.  B

Written by Michael

24 March 2014 at 10:45 am

Posted in Games, Reviews

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Snap Judgment – Flower (PS4)

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Flower (PS4)

Flower has been out for quite some time, originally available on PS3 back in February 2009.  It wasn’t on my radar until I played its successor, Journey (also by Thatgamcompany), however.  By the time I was aware of it, a PS4 version of the game had been announced, so I decided to wait it out to experience what I expected would be the highest quality version of the game.

And boy, is it ever a visual and auditory stunner — perhaps not as strong as Journey, but damn close.  Unsurprisingly, given the developer’s pedigree, this is an experience game, focused much less on gameplay itself.

Speaking of, you essentially play a single flower petal at the beginning of each stage, and your sole purpose is to fly around and through other unbloomed flowers, activating them.  In doing so, you gather more and more petals to eventually create a gigantic multicolored train, and every flower you hit chimes a note as if you’re composing music as you go.  This unlocks different things in each stage and ultimately leads you to completing them.

This is where I struggled a bit with Flower, however.  Whereas Journey controlled much like any other third-person oriented game, Flower feels much more like an arcade racing game inasmuch as you actually control the pitch and yaw by tilting the Dualshock 4, and then you accelerate by holding down whichever button you choose.  (Since the face buttons are no longer pressure sensitive as they were on previous Dualshock controllers, I opted for the triggers.)  For some, I’m sure the racing comparison is a favorable one, but I’m rather terrible at those kinds of games.

Because Flower gives you nothing insofar as instruction, I was convinced I needed to bloom every single flower I could find, which often led me to careening around haphazardly, often turning around to grab ones I missed.  This led to frustration in what should otherwise be a very zen-like experience.

But overall, Flower is pretty spectacular.  In its presentation, you’ll begin to understand the core philosophy behind what Thatgamecompany is trying to say about nature’s relationship to the manmade world.  This title left me considering a lot of things by the time I reached its spectacular conclusion, which is one of my very favorite aspects of indie games and why I’m so excited for this new generation.

A worthy experience, my control problems aside, especially with the increased beauty and atmosphere that the PS4 enables.  Better still, this title is cross-buy, meaning that since I bought it once, I can now play it on the PS3 in my room, PS4 in my living room, or PS Vita on the go, which is a damn good deal.  And I know I’ll want to play it again and again.  B+

Written by Michael

20 November 2013 at 1:02 am

Posted in Games

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