We’re onto Sony’s E3 2018 event, it’s the PlayStation Showcase. Somewhere in a parallel universe there’s a bunch of executives watching a video stream of a writer in Honolulu and writing down what he’s talking about.
I’ll probably never use it, because I don’t jailbreak modern consoles, but it’s an impressive discovery by KiiWii on the GBA Temp forums (via Wololo) that the Parappa The Rapper remaster for the PlayStation 4 is actually a PlayStation Portable emulator with special features. Those features let the developers replace the textures in an emulated game with upgraded assets that look better at the higher resolutions of the PS4.
Very few PSP games actually work in this emulator, it’s just fun to look behind the curtain of one of these remastered games and find out how the remastered sausage is made.
The 2018 God of War game without a subtitle isn’t a reboot of the series, but it does sound like a great starting point for anyone who dropped off after the earlier games or who wasn’t interested in them at all.
The review embargo lifted a few days ago, to almost universal acclaim, here’s part of Keza MacDonald’s take:
This God of War wants us to see Kratos as a person, rather than an instrument of extraordinary violence. The game not only pulls this off, but turns Kratos and his son’s journey into one of the best games of recent years: a deft intertwining of relatable familial drama and awe-inspiring mythological epic.
There are probably a huge number of takes on this game from other parents, but mine is short: I probably won’t get to play this God of War for a while. As appealing as it is, and I loved the PSP games in the series, I have a very limited amount of time to play anything when my son is sleeping and I try to avoid any kind of violent games when he’s awake.
For everyone else who doesn’t have children, or whose kids are older, God of War is out this Friday the 20th on the PlayStation 4.
Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorite games. It is from a unique moment in time before independent developers had found the ability to publish their novel ideas widely. Instead, we had this deep series of boss fights from Team Ico that turns out to work just as well today as it did in 2005. At least, once Bluepoint did some serious technical work to make the game presentable to a new and returning audience.
Eurogamer’s Oli Welsh reviewing the new Shadow of the Colossus remake for the PlayStation 4 that comes out on February 6:
So this PlayStation 4 remake is a risky undertaking. The developer, Bluepoint Games of Austin, Texas, is the undisputed master of remasters and has even been here before, having made the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection for PlayStation 3 in 2011. But this isn’t a remaster. This is a remake, rebuilding the game from scratch using new technology and all-new, much more detailed art. Ueda wasn’t involved and everything he and his team made for the original game has been redrawn and embellished to satisfy our hunger for fidelity. In a literal sense, this is an artist’s game remade without the original artist and containing none of the original art. Could its spirit survive such a process?
Yes. And how. Bluepoint has achieved an unprecedented feat in game preservation that creates the definitive version of Shadow of the Colossus and makes a generations-old game feel excitingly modern.
It can be pretty frustrating to find out that something you want to fix is difficult or impossible to repair. Glued-on screens cover batteries that are all custom fit inside small cases that prevent curious people from learning how things work and fixing problems with their devices. Iconoclasts from Joakim Sandberg takes that a step further, it’s a world where a mechanic, Robin, finds that her profession is outlawed. Your mission is to get Robin and her friends together to fix things in what looks like a bit of a metroidvania side-scrolling action-adventure with a Metal Slug-y vibe to the art.
Iconoclasts is a fine game, offering both satisfyingly sharp platforming and shooting, and some really smart puzzles. It’s enormous too, packed with secret areas and other stuff to discover. And although I found the humour a little glib and childish at times, it tells its heartfelt story well. A lot of Metroidvania games go for a bleak, downbeat atmosphere, but Iconoclasts is infectiously vibrant and sunny, even if the story does occasionally venture into dark territory.
Microsoft recently announced their Xbox Game Pass subscription service.
Most people are comparing it to a Netflix for games, it’s not a bad comparison excepting that while Netflix streams, the games with Microsoft’s service will download to an Xbox One.
The selection of games available will be pretty small, “over 100” when the service becomes available later this spring for $10 a month. The games will change every month, and once the game is cycled out you lose access to it. You do get a discount for purchases of games in the Game Pass library. The Xbox Game Pass games are mostly older from the Xbox One and 360, no real newer options though there isn’t a final list of what will be available.
There’s nothing exactly comparable to this from Sony, their Playstation Now service on the PS4 and Windows is $15 a month at its cheapest (3 month subscription), only streams older Playstation 3 games. The PlayStation 4 has no backwards compatibility with the PS3 otherwise.
Both Microsoft and Sony include “free” games every month with the subscription they charge for online play. I dropped my Xbox Gold subscription because I wasn’t playing online regularly, and the games they were offering weren’t as good as the Playstation Plus games.
Nintendo is going to include free games with their online service for the Switch, but final pricing is unknown, and they’ll all be swapped out every month.
There’s nothing at all like it from Valve on Steam or Windows, though the third-party Humble Bundle has a monthly subscription for $12 that acts like a blind box. Subscribing to that only gives you access to the next month’s games.
There are a lot of questions left to be answered. Games are different from movies, you might take more than a month to play through something and even some games could stick around for multiple months you might be coming up on the end of the month wondering if the one you’re playing is going to cycle out.
When Sony’s upgraded Playstation 4 Pro shipped it only offered performance improvements for games that were updated to support it. That’s a manual process that costs money (in wages) on the part of the developer to support. Not every game is going to get an update. It’s an impossible task for games that have had their development teams disbanded, or small studios that don’t have time to go back and retest and resubmit their updates to Sony.
An upcoming firmware update (4.50) is to resolve this issue, partially. Boost mode will offer enhanced performance for all older games. With the caveat that there is no guarantee they will support it.
In short, boost mode will work best in stabilising performance closer to target frame-rates and should prove interesting on unlocked titles, but you can’t expect game-changing miracles. Games like Destiny that stick doggedly to their 30fps cap will see no improvement, and titles certainly won’t break their performance limits and suddenly run at 60fps. However, there are plenty of games out there that glitch badly or run nowhere near their theoretical limits. In this scenario, boost mode could be revelatory.
Enhanced performance isn’t everything, and I’d be surprised if Sony didn’t eventually blacklist games that don’t work well with the boost, but this is huge news for anyone that bought a Pro and a disappointment for anyone that bought the regular Playstation 4 before this functionality was announced.
Now we know where Patrick Klepek went. In a post for Vice Gaming, with fellow Giant Bomb alumnus Austin Walker, Klepek confirms that the rumored variation of the Playstation 4 with improved horsepower would be announced on a very busy September 7th:
Sony will reveal the first details on an upgraded PlayStation 4 at a September 7 event in New York, French gaming website Gameblog reported today. VICE Gaming can confirm that it’s heard the same information from multiple sources familiar with the planned rollout for the new machine. These sources chose to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about Sony’s plans.
I can’t believe that Naughty Dog, the developers of The Last of Us and 3 prior Uncharted games came back to make another Uncharted again. Nevertheless, here we are for Uncharted 4. It’s almost like they’re running a business of making excellent games and then selling them for money but have locked onto this one idea of climbing and third person shootering and will keep going until it is no-longer making money.
Like the final season of a favored television series, all of the beloved characters have reached their final form by the time this game is done.
Nathan Drake is still our protagonist, he’s been wedded with Elena, I must have missed that when I skipped out on Uncharted 3. Nate has a normal-ish job these days, you’ll see what it is if you play the game. Sully (Victor Sullivan) is still old as dirt and this time won’t participate much in the action but is happy to lend a hand or fly everyone around. New to Uncharted 4 is a surprise guest appearance by Nathan’s older brother, Sam. I can’t remember ever hearing about him before, but here he is complete with flashback sequences to Nate and Sam’s childhood together throughout the game.
Sam is reunited with Nate for one last adventure to save Sam’s bacon over a debt that could cost him his life if they don’t quickly recover Henry Avery’s pirate treasure to pay off a drug lord.
Early on I was incredibly bored with Uncharted 4’s gameplay. The style of the climbing and third person shooting is still good, but was so similar to previous games that I thought I might not make it very far in. This is one of the best looking games I have ever seen, but good looks only get you so far without new adventuring mechanics.
Thank goodness there are changes to the gameplay as well as the story.
Everyone knows that Nathan Drake is kind of an ass. He straight up murders hundreds of dudes in each game’s beautiful set pieces, usually in places that he doesn’t really have an excuse for being in. The witty remarks he makes about straight up murder seem to indicate that he doesn’t seem to be losing any sleep over it.
The most important thing upgraded in this sequel’s story is that while Nathan Drake is still a compete ass to everyone around him, finally, in Uncharted 4 the consequences for his behavior are found in his rapidly dissolving marriage and through witnessing his brother’s impulsiveness impacting the lives of those around him.
He isn’t constantly a jerk to his wife, Elena, but he certainly isn’t upfront and truthful about the work he needs to do in order to liberate his brother from the drug lord to whom he owes his life. Those moments with Elena and Nate upset with each other aren’t necessary fun, and it can be awkward to watch Nathan’s “real life” crumble, but watching their life unfold at home before he leaves for another adventure is very relatable to anyone who has been in a long term relationship. Not that normal people are going out to find pirate treasure, it just humanizes the characters in a way that isn’t typical for big action games.
This story is what carried me through the otherwise same-y climbing and terribly implemented one on one fist-fighting introduced early on in the game. That part of the game’s combat just isn’t fun, thankfully it isn’t something that you’ll be forced to play through much before going back to ducking behind cover and shooting in set piece areas that you can decide how you want to approach. Stealth options are present, and it is fun to kick a dude off a cliff, snap his neck and drag his corpse into the bushes, or pull him over a ledge that you’re hanging below, but you’re going to end up breaking out of it before long when a more distant enemy who has slightly better vision than Metal Gear Solid goons spots you grabbing one of the other guys.
There are gameplay improvements as well. Since this is an adventure about pirating Nate is now equipped with some magic grappling rope that can attach itself to any grapple point at a distance. This can be used to quickly get up over an obstacle or more often the rope is used for swinging around between chasms, buildings, and everything, like Tarzan. It is a fun as hell addition and you can use this in combat to move quickly between vantage points as well as shooting while swinging which works amazingly well. It’s completely ridiculously implemented, you’ll always attach to the appropriate point as long as it is on screen. After playing around with it I would love to see a Spider-Man game from Naughty Dog.
The new climbing piton, the spike that mountaineers drive into walls when there otherwise isn’t a handhold, allows Nate to climb along a little bit more organically into points that are specifically designated for it. It’s not as great an addition as the grappling rope, but any positive change to a climbing mechanic that has been brutally beaten into us in every Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed is an improvement. I wonder how different it would have been if you could have combined the piton with the grappling rope and attached one to the other, swinging across larger gaps between handholds in rock faces more easily.
Due to the success of Call of Duty 4’s laser-like focus on a critical path through a single player campaign, other action games tend to focus on a very limited path through the environment, to the detriment of exploration. The reasoning behind this decision has been “why spend a game’s budget on something the player might never see? Also, we don’t understand pacing at all.”
In a very few open-world games you do have a bit more freedom to explore but it’s usually not worth spending the time to do so. What’s the point of exploring if the world doesn’t have any detail to it outside of where the major story beats take place?
Uncharted 4 gives you a few open areas that are very detailed, a Jeep with your buddies in it, and says “have fun.”
Driving that Jeep and watching as it attacks the terrain is super fun. Attaching its winch in order to solve puzzles in the environment is fun. The chatter from your passengers and how they switch seats to help you out instead of the game making you backtrack to the jeep in order to artificially lengthen the experience is fun.
Your reward for exploring those open areas is more information about the quest you’re on as well as more quick sketches of what the characters are looking at and thinking about in Nate’s journal.
Those sketches feel like Nathan, and the designer’s, notes to the player. While playing I was unexpectedly excited every time I got the prompt for Nathan to write or draw in his journal. You can tell that Naughty Dog knew what a great thing they had made since you can access Nate’s journal directly from the main menu of the game.
There are still puzzles, just like previous Uncharted games, and they are fun. The way they integrate with the journal is nice and the puzzles are still best when you have an audience of friends or family locally to help you solve them. Not that they are any kind of serious challenge, it’s just fun to have the input.
Multiplayer is still included and is still incredibly well put together. It isn’t why you would buy an Uncharted, but it feels like something that could be packaged up on its own with a different name and compete for the multiplayer shooter players’ attention with Overwatch and other recent games. The multiplayer package is far more than you might expect to be bolted onto a series that is regarded only for its single player campaign just to keep people from trading the game in.
This time Naughty Dog have wisely decided to not lock the additional levels they’ll make to their multiplayer after the game is released behind a season pass or another additional charge. You can buy cosmetic items that change the look of your characters but the game isn’t going to be less fun when 10 identical Nathan Drakes are running around the map. That is sometimes pretty hilarious.
The only real fault with the game is that it waits until chapter 10 to give you access to the Jeep and open areas. It should be inexcusable to hide the best part of the game until then.
So many people have already spoiled some of the great parts of this game, and I’ve tried to avoid doing so here. it is a surprisingly great sequel to a series that could otherwise have stopped at the second game in it and been fine.
Before this game came out, I couldn’t name an exclusive for the PlayStation 4 that made the console worth recommending. If you have never played an Uncharted before, or if you have and gave up on the series’ repetitive nature, you should come play Uncharted 4. Those in the first group, well, I imagine that you’ll enjoy the first ten chapters even more.
4 out of 5 Pyrate Adventures for Uncharted 4.
Here’s an extended snippet of gameplay, without commentary, I recorded while I’m putting my recording studio back together. This features almost everything I’ve talked about in this review that makes the game great but does contain some story spoilers if you’re concerned about plot details.
Speaking with the Financial Times’ Tim Bradshaw, Sony’s Andrew House confirmed the rumors of an upcoming upgrade to the Playstation 4:
Andrew House, president and global chief executive of Sony Interactive Entertainment, told the Financial Times that the “high-end PS4” would be more expensive than the current $350 version.
“It is intended to sit alongside and complement the standard PS4,” he said. “We will be selling both [versions] through the life cycle.”
The new console, which is codenamed “Neo”, will target hardcore gamers, he said, as well as consumers with a 4K television set looking for more high-resolution content.
You should probably still hold off on buying one since pricing information (beyond that it will be more expensive) and other details were not revealed, and won’t be announced at E3 next week.
It’ll be very interesting if this is the final console generation for a long time and we end up with a more iPhone-like annual or bi-annual console upgrade cycle that maintains software compatibility.