Tag Archives: PS4 Pro

Review: Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Edmonton’s BioWare has created some great series and characters, but none became so close to my heart as the Mass Effect line of games with its roster of heroes and villains. The newly released Mass Effect Legendary Edition brings the original trilogy to a new generation of gamers in a remastered package that lets the games shine far brighter than they ever have before.

Though this is a remaster, not a full-on remake, of the three games, there are are number of quality of life changes – most sizable in the series’ first game. Mass Effect sees an overhaul of the leveling system that makes the game much more enjoyable thanks to the revamped power curve.

Prior to this remaster’s release I was playing through the original game – available on the Xbox consoles via backwards compatibility – on Insanity difficulty and the game-stopping difficulty spikes have been leveled out. The games also run better, even while outputting at 4K, which helps with the action-oriented combat. The result is a game that feels both easier and yet also far more rewarding.

This release also includes almost all the downloadable content (DLC) available for the games, over 40 bits of content in all, except for the Pinnacle Station DLC, due to the source code having been lost over the years. The game also takes a pass on the multiplayer from Mass Effect 3, though if there’s enough demand for it that may yet be added back in.

Wrex. Shepard.

The trilogy lets gamers, who can take the ‘stock’ Shepard in male or female variants or create their own, through an epic space-faring tale of betrayal with some revenge and a dash of ‘saving the universe’ thrown in for good measure. As the Shepard of their choice, players will make decisions with long-lasting consequences – to an extent not often found in games, including character deaths that leave you wish you’d done things differently.

The ability to go Paragon or Renegade – which often don’t really translate to good vs evil, but more doing the right thing vs doing the righteous thing – extends the replay value here. With three games in the package, clocking in at around 55 hours combined for just the main storylines, plus all that DLC, you’ve got a whole lot of gaming ahead of you.

The console experience offers two settings: Performance and Quality. The PS4 is 1080p/60fps in Performance, 1080p/30fps in Quality. PS4 Pro and PS5 both offer up to 1440p/60fps in Performance and up to 4K/30fps (PS4 Pro) and 60fps (PS5) on Quality.

Xbox One consoles offer up to 1080p/60fps in Performance or Quality, while Xbox One X and Series S both offer up to 1440p/60fps in Performance and 4K/30fps in Quality. The Series X is up to 4K/120fps in Performance and 4K/60fps on Quality.

The game also includes an all-new photo mode that allows you to rotate the camera, hide player/non-player characters, and other goodies. It’s a great addition to a franchise that has some gorgeous environments and character models.

What I Loved:

  • Great work on bringing the visuals up to modern standards
  • Top-notch performance transforms the feel of the earlier games
  • Quality of life changes to the first game
  • The “Wrex.” “Shepard.” exchanges are still great
  • Voice acting is still top-tier after all these years
  • The new photo mode!

What I Liked:

  • Character creator changes allow you to carry ‘your’ Shepard over all three games
  • Load time improvements allow for skipping elevator sequences
  • Forgot how much I loved the music
  • Three games + almost all DLC means at least a hundred hours of gaming
  • Better Mako controls

What I Disliked:

  • Mako still a bit frustrating to handle
  • DLC integration feels haphazard

What I Hated:

  • Reminds me there’s no Mass Effect movie…

The Final Word: Mass Effect Legendary Edition is a must-buy for sci-fi lovers who missed out on the original games, but also offers a lot for fans who were around the first time through as well. Incredible value for your dollar.

Available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Playable via backwards compatibility on PS5 and Xbox Series S|X. Series X version reviewed using code provided by the publisher.

PS and Xbox Cyberpunk 2077 Gameplay Footage Now Available

Following up on the recent release of Xbox One X and Xbox Series X (via backwards compatibility) gameplay footage of Cyberpunk 2077, the hotly-anticipated open-world action-adventure/roleplaying title from CD Projekt Red, now we have footage from the PS4 Pro and PS5 (again in compatibility mode) to take a look at.

Here’s the two videos.

Cyberpunk 2077 is slated to release on December 10th, 2020 on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Stadia. While it will be playable on Xbox Series S|X and PS5 via backwards compatibility, CD Projekt Red has promised a free upgrade to a full next-gen version will be available at a later date.

For more on the game check out the official website: https://www.cyberpunk.net/

Review – Final Fantasy VII Remake

The word ‘remake’ in the title doesn’t really convey exactly what Square Enix has delivered this week with Final Fantasy VII Remake, a full-on reinvention of the classic PS1 Japanese roleplaying game (JRPG) from 1997 – or at least of a part of it.

As a word of caution to those thinking of getting the game, this is not the full Final Fantasy VII experience you might remember – the remake covers basically the opening of the original game, up to leaving Midgar. You aren’t going to ‘finish the fight’ here, to borrow a catchphrase from another game, only start it out and leave you wanting more and wondering when you’ll get it.

It’s hard to say how much of the story is ok to talk about – on one hand this is familiar ground to those who played (often multiple times) that 1997 original, but on the other there’s a whole lot different here, including an ending that hints there may be even larger diversions from the original going forward. I’ll say that this is a lot more fleshed out than the original was, and that spending 35-40 hours roaming Midgar winds up being a lot more entertaining than I’d expected going into it due in large part to that fleshing out of themes and characters, but the game really should have had ‘Part One’ or ‘Midgar’ appended to the title to make it clear to customers what they were buying.

The game’s visuals are more of a mixed bag than I’d expected, given the amount of time it spent in development. It’s a very strong package overall that’s lifted by excellent cutscenes but held back by absurdly out of place low-resolution textures that litter multiple environments. At one point I restarted and even did a database rebuild on the PS4 Pro I was playing on to see if there was an issue with asset streaming from the hard drive, but – while it might still be a software bug of some kind, it doesn’t appear to be on the hardware side of things.

The combat system is a half-step between a full-on action game and being fully turn-based, and feels in many ways like the child of Final Fantasy XIII. Positioning is important in battle, which offer some nice strategic depth, but the camera works against you often enough, particularly in the plethora of linear environments you’ll be traversing, that it’s annoying. One tip is to go into the menus and extend the camera distance out as far as you can, which isn’t much, but it does help a bit.

Combat uses the series staple Active Time Battle (ATB) meter, and players will need to jump from character to character in battle in order to make the most of it. There’s no ability to set parameters for the AI (artificial intelligence) partners to take actions on their own, so they’re unable to effectively generate ATB meter without direct player intervention. It’s a bit of forced micromanaging, especially as AI controlled party members won’t move out of damaging status effects like fire on their own, but it becomes second nature quickly. As an unintentional benefit, the enemy AI tunnel visions in on whoever the player is controlling which makes their AI easily exploitable.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is a strong overall package, but not a perfect one by any means, with far more linear levels and out-of-place low-resolution textures than I expected from a late-generation showpiece title. I’m curious to see where it goes next, given the ending…

What I liked:

  • Stellar cutscenes – better than Blizzard’s? Maybe, at times.
  • Almost unbelievable how much they fleshed out Midgar
  • Great trip down memory lane…with some detours
  • What comes next? And when?

What I didn’t like:

  • Low-res textures popping up far too often, especially noticeable next to high-res ones
  • Party AI – or lack of it – requires constant micromanaging
  • Far too many ‘walk this straight line’ maps
  • The sinking feeling we’re going to have to wait years for part two

Review – Days Gone

Days Gone pits the player against a harsh post-zombie apocalypse world…think The Walking Dead, but almost everyone, including the main character, is Daryl Dixon from the first season – the leather wearing, motorcycle riding, don’t-need-nobody antihero version.

There are no zombies here though, with gamers – as Deacon St. John – putting down hordes of ‘Freakers’ while exploring the open world. There’s also not much of a supporting cast, with the game relying heavily on players identifying with Deacon, who is basically as unlikable of a character as he can possibly be for the first 20-odd hours of the game, or his friend Boozer who doesn’t fare much better.

The opening 10-odd hours of the game are heavy on stealth, with Deacon not possessing the tools or knowledge to take down more than a few zombies Freakers at a time. Once you unlock traps it’s not quite so necessary to sneak in and one-hit kill as many as possible before going loud, but you’re still best to stick to 10-15 Freakers at a time and avoid the massive hordes with a few hundred zombies in them.

Alert one of those large hordes and you’d think the game would turn into a terrifying run for your life, but instead it’s a bumbling run through the environment being chased by things that can’t quite catch you, leading them over ledges that slow them down or cause pathing problems that leave them ‘chasing’ you in another direction. Later, when you have access to more weapons and a better handle on the traps, these fights offer a distraction from the rest of the game, but they’re few and far between.

After playing through the game’s 40-odd hours, I’m on the fence about it. It’s not bad, but it’s certainly not great either. It has some high points – particularly the graphics when it gets a bit foggy and everything comes together, but also some real lows – performance issues are a major one, even on a PS4 Pro. The game has been patched multiple times since it become available to reviewers about three weeks ago, but it’s still nowhere near solid – and considerably worse on a base PS4. After the game was delayed for six months to polish it, I’m surprised to see it launch in this kind of shape.

The story also never really comes together. It feels like they didn’t know whether they wanted to make a pure ‘apocalypse survival’ game with emergent gameplay and no story, or a narrative heavy experience and had to cut bits out. There’s clearly some missing story elements here and there, but perhaps those are gaps they’ll fill with DLC down the road.

Review – Call of Duty: World War II

“This game is so ******* broken.”

I don’t know if there’s a better way to sum up the bulk of the Call of Duty World War II experience than that quote from Wednesday night’s multiplayer session.
The game, released November 3rd, has suffered easily the worst launch of a Call of Duty title to date. Multiplayer, the game’s bread and butter, was completely unavailable for most of launch night and into the next day, and continues to be plagued by connection issues over a week later.
Matchmaking issues rendered the game’s dedicated servers useless at launch, prompting a switch to P2P (peer-to-peer) matchmaking – a system that relies on customers to play host to the game’s action, though at the expense of balance as the host gains an advantage over other players. Developers at Sledgehammer have worked to get dedicated servers back in action, with testing beginning this week. This should put an end to host migrations during matches, which pauses the action as the game tries to re-establish the peer-to-peer connection under a new host.
The matchmaking issues also caused Sledgehammer to scale back the much-vaunted Headquarters mode, which saw – for about the span of a day – gamers able to see and interact with one another in a shared social space set on the cliffs over Normandy beach. The social hub allowed players to see each other open the in-game reward crates, emote back and forth, and challenge one another to one-on-one duels or shooting contests. When the game switched to peer-to-peer, matchmaking in the Headquarters was cut off, leaving it an empty playfield and rendering most of it pointless.

Call of Duty runs over familiar ground, returning to World War II and telling some of the same stories again.

In fact, without people to interact with, it doesn’t take long before you start to question why you can’t simply do all this from a quick and easy menu. Picking up Contracts (time-limited missions you can take on to earn rewards like crates or bonus experience) and Orders (challenges to complete, separated into daily and weekly levels of difficulty) requires you to run between two different spots. Want to prestige your weapon? Run over there. Want to prestige your soldier? Sorry, that’s a different place.
Advancing in the Prestige ranks really feels special this time around. You talk to the General on the cliff overlooking the beach – a location you can only access when it’s time to prestige – and then there’s a plane flyby, a large glowing emblem showcasing your new rank appears over your head, and fireworks appear over the ships docked nearby. Well it would feel special, if there was anyone else in the Headquarters to see it…
We’ve reached peak Call of Duty…

Way back in 2014, Activision declared the Call of Duty franchise would be getting more polish, moving from a two-year to a three-year development cycle. Even setting aside the difficulties in multiplayer matchmaking, it doesn’t feel like World War II benefited from that extended timeline. The game launched with only nine maps for multiplayer modes, in addition to a bonus map that never seems to come up in matchmaking – likely because it must be downloaded separately and is easily forgotten. All in all, this just doesn’t feel like enough – especially after Infinite Warfare shipped with 13 maps.
Bizarrely, Sledgehammer has opted to do away with the stellar Pick-10 character creation system from past games and replaced it with Divisions, where players enlist in one of five divisions: Airborne, Armored, Expeditionary, Infantry, or Mountain – each with their own set of four perks. In addition to those perks, players can access one Basic Training bonus, ranging from ridiculously powerful ones like Espionage, which marks anyone damaged by you to your entire team for 10 seconds, to practically worthless ones like Inconspicuous, which doesn’t seem to make you any quieter while moving.
The game also suffers from some odd gameplay decisions, like allowing quickscoping to make a return. Quickscoping, a technique for sniper rifle users that abuses auto aim, was taken out of the series all the way back in Call of Duty: Ghosts. Sledgehammer has also given little thought to the impact of Contracts on the game, putting up Contracts that reward things like getting pistol or launcher kills. This floods games with players who only use those weapons, which renders them useless for the purposes of trying to win the game.
On the campaign side of things, this is a polished product that sports gorgeous graphics and a so-so story that we’ve seen before. Folksy farm hand goes to war and over the course of seven or so hours he learns hard lessons about how America won the war and saved everyone. The performances turned in by the voice actors are great, they just don’t have much of a script to work with. By the end of the campaign you’d be hard pressed to care much about any of the stars of the show, even if you do pay attention for the whole thing. The game shoots for a couple scenes with some real impact, but it falls flat since there’s no emotional engagement to be had.

Zombie Nazis also make a return as a co-operative experience, and it’s entertaining if you can get a group to play with. The formula is the same as past games: unlock new areas, find new weapons, and gain enough power to take on tougher challenges, but it’s something that works. The player characters have great personality, and the ability to choose one of four combat roles offers up some variety, which begs the question – what could this be if they really fleshed it out?