Quick Thoughts: August Playstation Plus Freebies

Last month, as a result of the Playstation Plus program, I spent a few days reveling in Detroit: Become Human. A new month has come, and with it more free games. Each time we get a new announcement from Sony about what titles are going to be included there are always two camps: Some folks clamor for better options, stating they’re discontinuing use of the service, while others will endlessly defend crappy selections. I fall somewhere in the middle. There have definitely been months where the subscription was well worth it; just a single game can sometimes make it worth the cost of entry. There have also been down months where I couldn’t care less about any of the games included. More recently, the PS3 and PSVita support has been pulled from the service so instead of getting between 2-4 games per month we now almost strictly get only two. Of course, people have complained about this too. I miss the cross-play titles that actually end up being pretty good. I don’t miss wasting time downloading throwaway games. I’ve still been pretty consistent with downloading nearly all of the games available (if not at least adding them to my library), and I at least try the ones I download. The free games for August were a mixed bag at first glance, and having played each for a little while I have some impressions to share.

A game I didn’t realize had even come out, the Wipeout Omega Collection collates Wipeout 2048 and Wipeout HD. I’m pretty sure HD is a remake of the original from way back on the original Playstation, and 2048 must have been a sequel at some point. Whatever the case, it’s been a game I’ve played each time I’ve seen a new version, but was never overly good at nor did it ever really hold my attention for long. I do enjoy a good racer though, and this one actually feels a lot better than I remember — I say this tepidly, because I’m sure actually difficult levels are near impossible. It looks good, much better than I remember, but I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I played a Wipeout game. From what I’ve read there aren’t any plans for new iterations either, so this might be the ultimate edition that you’ll have to settle for.

This is combat racing, so most game modes include AI competitors along with power-ups you can use to slaughter the competition. It doesn’t feel as fast paced as it did back in the day, but I’m sure that has more to do with my memory being off than actual facts. I really like the way it controls and the way it looks, even the music is pretty damn good. I ended up playing both 2048 and HD for a few races and noted that they feel pretty much the same as far as quality goes.  There is a really nice photo mode that allows you to capture some cool moments, and I wouldn’t recommend trying to take screenshots while racing as you’ll just lose position. Overall, this title was a surprise hit for me, much like Detroit: Become Human was last month. I still need to try out Heavy Rain on that note.

The other free title is one that I’m sure plenty of people would be excited about, but it ended up being underwhelming for me. The one and only Sniper Elite game I played was the second entry, and I found the slow-motion x-ray trick shot bits to be a little over the top and felt that they took away from the moment to moment combat. As such, I expected this game would be one that I’d glaze over pretty quickly. I will say that I rather enjoyed playing the Zombie Army Trilogy at a friend’s house a few years back (it’s made by the same devs) but it also didn’t focus so much on sniping and was more about killing zombies at a rapid clip.

Sniper Elite 4 takes place in Italy, and is sort of part of the side story of World War II. I imagine they are running out of theaters of war at this point anyway, but maybe not. Whatever the case, you play a lone wolf commando dude who is a badass sniper. You start off with a mission to kill some dudes, and you head off into a semi open world environment, and you’re taught how various mechanics work while trying not to get killed. From what I saw, this is just not a game for me. There is more focus on you trying to get stealth kills and remain undetected, while enemies swarm around looking for you. I hate being forced into this play pattern, and seeing people getting their insides exploded doesn’t really help it feel any better. So yeah, a hard pass for me, but I’m sure someone around here will enjoy it.

That’s all I got for today.

State of the Game: Recent Free Things

I’ve been a Playstation Plus subscriber for a few years now, but outside of a few key titles, there is little that I get overly excited to receive for free. For a time, I used to write about my experiences with these free games each and every month, but to be honest, there are months when I don’t have time to play them all or I have no interest in any of the titles. There has also been a recent change to the service, in that the Playstation 3 and PSVita systems are no longer supported, so we only get a couple of games per month, where there used to be times when we’d get cross-play PS3/Vita games and sometimes they were decent. Nonetheless, I took some time over the past week to check out some of the recent things we’ve seen through the service and thought I’d share some short thoughts on each. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Conan Exiles:

One of the offerings from this month, Conan Exiles is a title that I didn’t give a second thought to. The Survival Sandbox genre saw its height a few years ago, and I honestly never really got into any of the games despite picking up a few. As such, this wasn’t a game I was ever going to buy, but I tend to try out the free stuff given to us each month anyway. The first thing I noticed when firing up the game was that it doesn’t look very pretty. The character creation has some pretty ugly models, apparently there’s some nudity options which seem irrelevant, and the overall look of the game was muddy and overall unattractive. The introduction didn’t do anything for me. I honestly only ran around for ten minutes before uninstalling. It appears that it’s the same old shtick, but I assume there are things that set this particular survival game apart from the others, I just couldn’t be bothered to find out what those things were. I didn’t even take screenshots to share because it was that bad. I’d skip this one.

The Surge:

I was a bit more interested in The Surge on the other hand. It looked like a pretty decent Souls-Like but after learning that it was created by the same developers as Lords of the Fallen I wasn’t as enthused. I tried the latter at some point (wasn’t it free via Plus as well?) and felt that it was lacking compared to the Souls games, and didn’t play too much of it. This is still a case of a company copying a successful formula, but whereas with Lords it felt like a cheap, poorly made rip-off, in the case of The Surge the game feels like its own beast. I think the Sci-Fi setting is perhaps the reason for it not feeling like a cheap copy, but whatever the case is I actually enjoy this game.

You start off on a train to some sort of research facility, and it turns out your character is in a wheelchair. You venture further into the facility, where you get to choose your class, but it’s not so much a class as a couple of different job titles. I’m not sure what the differences are, but I went with the Lynx, which was tagged as being speedy and whatnot. I assume with the heavier class you might have different stats or abilities, but for now let’s move on — that’s what I did. You get a surgery which attaches this exoskeleton to you (though it looked quite painful since there was no sedation and quite a bit of nuts and bolts entering flesh) but the robots mistakenly say there is an issue with you and throw you in the trash pile. From there, it’s time to figure out what the hell is going on, as you are thrust into a scrapyard fighting sentient robots and talking to very few humans. The combat is action oriented and uses targeting and a variety of button presses to do things. You’ll get gear and implants that give you various abilities. It feels like its own thing, and it’s quite fun. I’d recommend checking this one out!

Path of Exile PS4:

Path of Exile obviously isn’t a new title, but it was just recently ported to the Playstation 4. Being a free-to-play title, this is available for anyone to download right now. I decided to download it just to see how an action RPG like this might perform on a console. My only other ARPG experience on a console was Diablo 3 on PS3, and I absolutely hated it. Action RPGs have been around for a very long time, and typically they are played on PCs with mouses, with click-to-move and click-to-attack mechanics that tend to not lend themselves well to play with a controller. I also have a long history with this title in particular, but only based on years, not time played. I helped to back it when it was in development, throwing some cash at Grinding Gear Games in order to play it early. I liked what I saw, but at some point I got on the Diablo 3 train and didn’t really play any other ARPGs for a long time. I’ve gone back and checked on PoE a few times since then, but haven’t ever done too much. So anyway, I downloaded and played for a bit the other day, and I have to say that this actually feels like a damn fine port!

Graphically the game looks great and it runs really smooth. I’ve seen games like this with a lot of action going on, on-screen at one time, bog down on consoles just because the processing power isn’t the same as PCs that released at the time of the console’s released. So this long later, you can imagine that the PS4 is a toaster compared to even my few year old gaming PC. Whatever the case, things look and play well. The controls are pretty intuitive, and it wasn’t too bad moving with a joystick as opposed to clicking a mouse. Instead, now you’ll be spamming that basic attack button but it feels pretty much the same. The menus are probably the only frustrating part, mainly because this game uses them quite often. You’ll want to manage your inventory, you’ll want to slot abilities into your weapons, to apply different effects, crafting, and navigating that huge skill tree. It feels like the game you already know, but stays fresh if you aren’t a grizzled veteran. I’d check it out if you’d rather play with friends on your console.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition:

This one came out a few months back but I hadn’t gotten around to trying it. A typical First Person Shooter, Bulletstorm came out several years ago. I remember when it originally released it wasn’t met with the best reviews, and playing it for a bit now, I understand why. Graphically, it looks alright, and feels like its running on the Borderlands engine. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it has graphical similarities. It’s a sci-fi shooter, with some hoorah bro nonsensical story line. It’s forgettable to say the least, and not intriguing enough to even pay attention to. This was a game that I went into feeling like I wouldn’t really care, and that turned out to be the case. The gunplay is fine. There are some cool parts where things slow down and you do some action movie stunts but overall it’s a pretty “meh” experience. I’d pass. I’ve uninstalled it.

Call of Duty 4 Remastered:

This was one of the freebies for Plus last month, and was honestly one of my favorite Call of Duty games of all time. I haven’t played much but I did check out both the campaign and the multiplayer. Unlike newer Call of Duty games, this one’s multiplayer didn’t have all of the skins and extra bullshit that has been shoehorned into the series over the years. Killstreaks were simple. The maps are still pretty memorable. I remember playing this on my PC for hours on private servers with differing rulesets, and though you can’t exactly do that now,  you can experience one of the better games in the series and that’s a plus to me. Playing through part of the campaign brought back a lot of memories as did murdering other players in multiplayer. I don’t think I would have ever paid for this, because it is pretty much just a visual update to a game that was already played years ago, but for free, it was a nice diversion.

That’s it for this round up. Happy Gaming everyone!

State of the Game: Plus Freebies For September

Besides offering us the base Destiny 2 game for free this month, Sony was gracious enough to present some other free titles via their Playstation Plus program. I’ve already written about my experience with Destiny 2 but I took some time over the weekend to check out the other games and wanted to share some thoughts. Honestly, it sounded like a fantastic month on paper but in practice I have already played each title long enough to get first impressions aside and have deleted them all off of my hard drive. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the games are bad, I actually see potential with them all and I’ll get into that when I discuss each individually, it’s just that they are games that fall into a “not for me” category. With that said, the title’s I’ll be covering today are God of War III Remastered, Foul Play, and Another World 20th Anniversary Edition. Let’s get to it, shall we?

God of War III Remastered:

This is the first time I’ve personally played a God of War game. When the first couple entries in the series released my PS2 had taken a dump and I never bothered to replace it. I was a primarily PC player for a few years before I picked up a PS3, which is where God of War III first appeared. The latest iteration of the series came out earlier this year, and in between there the Remastered for PS4 version of God of War III. Somehow or another I’ve still not played a one. Leave it to Playstation Plus to allow me the luxury of being able to figure out I wasn’t missing much and not having to pay for something to figure that out.

This isn’t to say that this isn’t a good looking game, despite being a 2015 remaster of a 2010 game. It’s not as sharp as games released in the last couple of years (see the excellent Shadow of the Colossus for how a modern remake looks), but it runs without a hitch and looks pretty damn good. It shows its age in some ways, but I’m not decrying it for this. I shouldn’t expect 2018 graphics out of an 8 year old game, remaster or not. What I can say is that despite its excellent visuals (the opening scene climbing up the back of titans who are climbing Mt. Olympus was pretty epic), its game play is fairly repetitive and something I think I may have outgrown. This is strange because I loved the last Devil May Cry title and listed the new one that’s coming soon on my anticipated list from E32018, and God of War has a similar combat: Button mashing works, but there is some nuance that can be found if you’re willing to put in the time. I think perhaps the setting appeals to me more with Devil May Cry, but whatever the case I’m sort of over mindless beat-em-ups.

Foul Play:

I guess that’s why I wasn’t overly impressed with Foul Play either. It’s a side-scrolling brawler done in a 2D style reminiscent of Streets of Rage or Golden Axe. It attempts to set itself apart by using a combo mechanic that doubles as your life. You’re an actor in a play, and the game unfolds as if you are on a single stage and playwrights are moving scenes around for you. You can see the crowd at all times, and what you do with your combos influence their mood which is represented with a gauge at the top of the screen. Do well and get rewarded with cheers but do poorly and you’ll fail a stage.

It’s a neat idea but I’m just not into these types of games so much anymore. I’ve tried to pick up indie titles like this in the past to relive fond memories of childhood but as games have evolved so have I, and I’m into things that are a little more sophisticated these days. Oh you fancy, huh?

Another World:

Lastly we have a port of the PS3 remake of Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition. Originally released in 1991, Another World was a success on computer systems and consoles of the time, with a unique art style and game play that feels much like old school computer games like King’s Quest, where death was a very real thing and mistakes were costly. It took me a while to even figure out how to get past the little worms at the beginning of the game let alone the big beast that chases you through the first few minutes. In 2011, the 20th Anninversary Edition remastered the graphics to a minute degree, making it look a little crisper, and running at higher resolutions. This port is the same thing so if you played it on your PS3 you needn’t bother with the PS4 version.

I took a bunch of screenshots of my time with the game but I managed to somehow only copy one image and had already deleted the rest off of my console believing that the rest were on my flash drive. I stole some Internet comparison images for use here, just so you can get an idea. It’s a uniquely styled game and were I not knee deep in other projects I might devote some time to it, but I realize I probably won’t ever play it an removed it from my hard drive accordingly.

Not to be overly negative but it was a poor month when it comes to these offerings, but I am completely happy with Destiny 2 outside of being a little confused as to what I’m supposed to buy to be able to play once I finish the original campaign. I see a package on the Playstation Store to get the first two expansions, but it won’t show the pricing for Forsaken individually because the other expansions are required to buy it (this shouldn’t be secret information). I also see the Forsaken Legendary Edition for $60 that is the equivalent to when I purchased The Taken King last year that had all prior content in it. There’s a deluxe edition too that has a season pass for Forsaken that reportedly will bring three more DLC packages down the line. Whatever the case I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

That’s it for this time. Happy Gaming everyone.

State of the Game: Shorts

Due to having had surgery yesterday, I’m in recovery. As such I’ve taken a couple of days off of work and have been trying to do as little as possible. Mobile Games like Clash Royale and Questland which I recently wrote about are fun and keep me occupied for a time, but after a while I want something more meaty to sink my teeth into. I’m limited to short stints of sitting in my computer chair, so I’ve been trying to prop myself up in bed and game on the Playstation. I’ve been neglectful of the Playstation Plus titles I’ve downloaded over the past couple of months, having titles like Beyond Two Souls and Heavy Rain still collecting dust, but I’ve managed to try out a handful of games that have been waiting for attention. I’ve also picked up a copy of episode 1 of the final season of TellTale’s The Walking Dead which I look forward to digging into (more on that later this week). Let’s get some first impressions over with, shall we?

So, earlier today I started off with Absolver, a game I knew literally nothing about. Billed as “online melee action,” that really doesn’t give us much to go on. It turns out to be a bit of a martial arts meets Dead Souls sort of game, where you’ll have some difficult to master combat tricks paired with character development and a semi-open world to explore. You start by picking a “fighting school” and after a short cutscene you are basically thrown right into things without much direction. This is fine, things start to make sense as you go along. I wouldn’t say the game is as difficult as Dark Souls, but it has the same sort of vibe, because you have more deliberate combat mechanics, and more importantly people can drop in and out of the world (though you can limit this to invite only) and PvP can breakout at any moment. I was jumped by someone who had some gear when I was fresh out of the early safe zone but then me and another newbie took him down together.

It’s a pretty game, and runs well enough. I didn’t have any hitching even when random people were jumping on and off of the server. You’re given the goal of defeating a bunch of different people before you’ll be able to become and “Absolver” but I don’t really know what that even means at this point. I think it will take some time to dig deeper and see what it’s all really about but because it was free I don’t have a problem getting to it when I can.

Next I tried out Dead by Daylight. This is one of those asymmetrical pvp games that pits a team of players against a lone enemy player (hence the asymmetrical bit). We’ve seen this done before in games like Evolve (which didn’t last) and Friday the 13th. Having never played anything like it, this was my chance to see what this type of game is all about. There is a short tutorial that will allow you to get the hang of playing as either a survivor or the killer. As a survivor your goal is to avoid the killer, turn on some generators and then exit the level. A typical round sees you and your four teammates turning on the five generators, getting attacked, hiding, being offered up to some creepy spider god (the killer throws you on a meat hook) and rescuing each other. As the killer, you’ll be hunting the survivors and have the advantage on not needing to hide, and being able to down a survivor in two hits. You’ll then throw them on the meat hooks and hope they don’t get saved. All the while you’ll want to break down the generators so they can’t escape.

The lone round I played saw me being the first one downed and hooked and I ended up dying as my teammates didn’t bother trying to rescue me. Boo hoo. Overall it seems like a game that I’d rather enjoy with a full group of friends, but otherwise it gets pretty boring rather quickly. A shame, as it’s a cool premise. Some DLCs added to the game allow you to play as killers from several different Horror movies and that’s a cool idea but the game just feels to fall a little flat for me personally.

Last up, I tried out Mafia III, which was one of this months freebies. I was first introduced to the Mafia series when at some point my sister was raving about the game prior to this one. I played it a bit at her house and wrote it off as a Grand Theft Auto clone. From what she tells me, it’s much better story-wise than GTA ever was, and from the little taste of this game I’ve come to the same conclusion. I have GTAV on my PS4 but never beat it. I always get distracted by blowing shit up or dicking around in the online version. Mafia feels like the same kind of game — it’s 3rd person, it’s about crime, and there are some on foot shooty parts and some driving parts. It could be written off as a clone or just another entry into the open-world genre, but it seems rather well done.

Right from the get go the devs display a message about the racism and bigotry throughout the tale, but they give their reasons and I tend to think they are the right reasons to go ahead an include such things. You play Lincoln Clay, a half-Dominican half-White guy who’s just come back from Vietnam (this is set in the late 60’s) and looks to be getting involved in the mafioso life. There’s a cool montage at the beginning with news bits and a chamber of commerce message along with some testimonials from those close to Lincoln, and then we flash to Mardi Gras. On this day, you and a pal Georgi are taking part in a heist on the federal reserve, bringing in counterfeit cash that is to be burned, but then you manage to grab some real money but shit gets real. Then there are some flash back bits from when you first get home and you play through a couple of days of seeing how your family has gotten entangled in some mob stuff and you’re gonna have to help them out. I assume this leads to the heist so you can pay off some mobster your dad owes money to. As I said, there are the same sorts of bits as the GTA games, but I’m already more invested in this one that I was the last couple of GTA games.

So my initial impressions having me leaning towards playing through Mafia as I rather like it, but Absolver looks like it might vie for some time. Dead by Daylight is a solid “meh.”

State of the Game: Playstation Plus Goodies

For a while I wrote about Playstation Plus and its free offerings every month, but eventually tired of the formula because simply put: Some months are better than others. When months would inevitably roll around that contained games I already owned or titles I just wasn’t interested in, it felt silly to just write about how much all the games sucked (or were great but I had already played ’em). This column has become my catch all for miscellaneous games I’ve been playing and it just so happens that this month’s games from the service are rather good. So without further ado, let’s talk about some games!

Coincidentally I’ve had my eye on this title for a while, and almost bought it a time or two. It’s not a new game by any means, but it piqued my interest with its Hot Wheels style tracks and it’s kid-friendly design. I figured it would be a game I might be able to get some time in with the boy, and I was pleasantly surprised by its performance. It’s a blistering fast romp through bite sized tracks, each that becomes increasingly more ridiculous (and difficult). To this point I’ve managed to clear the first 20 or so tracks and there have been some tricky ones in there.

Trophies range from catching big air to going really fast and clearing chunks of tracks. Watch out for the invisible walls when you go airborne though, you can have some spectacular crashes if you don’t heed this warning! It seems that the campaign is pretty long, and that’s all I’ve played so far, but it appears that there are plenty of other modes and options to explore. Not sure what the asking price is, but if you have the service I’d definitely check it out.

This title has been around for a long while as well. Somewhat based on the Mad Max Fury Road movie that came out around the same time, it’s got what you would expect from a movie based on a famous IP. You play the title character, you drive a post-apocalyptically appropriate vehicle, and the world is a wasteland — all of which lines up with the lore of the IP and with what you expect. Where this game goes a bit more above and beyond is in the execution. It seems to be almost RPG-esque and also has the feel of most open world games that have come out in the last decade. I guess that’s more of the same, but at the same time it’s an interesting IP so I’m cool with that.

I’ve only played this one for about an hour, but long enough to get a vehicle (which you get to choose from a few) and complete a few missions. So far it’s been fairly entertaining, and I’m glad to have this copy on my PS4. I owned this on PC from Humble Monthly way back when but hadn’t played it, and it feels at home on the console. Probably worth it if you enjoy open-world games, or the IP itself. It is pretty much more of the same but still isn’t bad.

This one came out of left field, it was a title I hadn’t heard of before. It’s a Brazilian game and as such has some Spanish language/cultural influence, but it’s presented in English and is clearly inspired by games like River City Ransom. I rather enjoyed that title from way back when and newer iterations that have released since, so I figured I would enjoy this title just the same and I have so far. There are several characters to choose from, but as I noted here on Twitter, I clearly had to pick this one:

As I said, it looks like River City Ransom, and it plays just the same. You’ll punch and kick your way through various bad guys, grab power ups and there are some light RPG elements. It’s not a new formula but it works and this is a serviceable title. I’d check it out if you’re a fan of this style of game.

Lastly, we have In Space We Brawl. It’s a clever title but it really just amounts to Asteroids on crack. It’s the same sort of twin-stick shooter, but instead of clearing asteroids until you eventually can’t survive any longer you’ll fight against up to three other people while still trying to avoid space debris.

You’ve got various ships and weapons loadouts to choose from and a variety of levels to compete on, but that’s really all there is to it. It’s a fun little time waster, but nothing too deep or serious here. This is the last title I’ve got to talk about this time, but overall it was a pretty decent month for Playstation Plus, and it’s been a while!