Weekend Gaming Review – August 2021

Greetings! We’ve reached August already! It doesn’t seem like I should be looking at the calendar and noticing the autumn season in just a month or so away, but here we are. It’s also been a little while since I sat down and wrote a short update about what I’ve been up to lately(spoiler: video games). Let’s start with the most recent and exciting stuff first…

Quest Complete: PlayStation 5 Acquired

I did it. It’s been 9 months since Sony and Microsoft released their next-gen consoles in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Anyone who’s paid the smallest bit of attention to general gaming news knows how difficult it has been to grab either one. I was fortunate enough to notice an email from GameStop announcing they were set to receive another stock of PlayStation 5s this past week; I was even more fortunate making it through the checkout process and receiving a message saying the order of a PS5 bundle was confirmed…to my astonishment. Adding to my surprise, the package arrived at my door a mere 3 days later.

I spent the majority of my Friday evening getting the PS5 set up next to the living room tv before logging in with PSN accounts and beginning the not-entirely-straightforward process of transferring games and save data – something that didn’t affect previous PlayStation generations as they weren’t backwards compatible(well, the PS3…kind of was).

The first game I tried out on the new gaming hardware was Astro’s Playroom – a pre-installed game that essentially serves as a tech demo for the PS5 and the new DualSense controller. I found myself loving Astro’s Playroom and quickly played through the game, grabbing all the trophies along the way. I’m not going to say much more about the game right now, as I plan to write up a post about some of my thoughts on the game in the next week or so. I did also get the chance to play the first 90 minutes or so of Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart and have been pretty impressed with what I’ve seen so far. The PS5 and DualSense controller have already shown some of the interesting things their capable of; here’s hoping to see even more as we progress further.

Other gaming things I’ve been keeping busy with…

Monster Hunter: Rise

Over the past month, I’d be pretty confident in saying that the majority of my gaming time has been spent playing Monster Hunter: Rise. I’ve typically had some issues breaking through the at-times overwhelming combination of game mechanics, tutorials, and inventory, but I finally feel like I have a better grasp on the series after playing the most recent release on the Switch. A fair amount of my time was also spent trophy hunting in Final Fantasy XV as I’m slowly, but surely(?) progressing towards another platinum trophy. When not busy with Monster Hunter or Final Fantasy in my spare time, I’ve also been playing the usual, completely random assortment of games on Twitch a few times a week – wrapping up Bugsnax last Friday and beginning Paper Mario just this morning.

Upcoming Plans

With the summer steadily coming to a close, I’ve begun writing down some ideas for future blog/stream projects later this fall. Each October for the past two years, I’ve come up with a list of specific games I intend to play and write about throughout the month. I ended up using the term “Blogtober” to cover all the different spooky/scary games I would write about(and stream) leading up to Halloween – playing scary games in October…no one’s thought of that. Brilliant idea, right? I’ve started a couple of the games I have planned, as this *should* make it a little easier to have posts lined up ahead of time and not working on something the night before I plan to post it, finally hitting the publish button when I feel it’s as good as it’s gonna get.

This November will also mark the 20th anniversary since the release of the Nintendo GameCube, as well as Microsoft’s entry into the home console market with the original Xbox in 2001. Both consoles hold a special place for me and were responsible for many fond memories growing up, so I have a few ideas in place for something to commemorate their respective releases. Stay tuned to see how those half-baked ideas turn out…

That’s all for now. I’ve been itching to get back to some more Ratchet & Clank on that new PS5, so….the rest of my night is planned out.

Thanks for reading!

Thoughts on Sony’s PlayStation 5 Presentation

The future is now. It’s been a mere two days since Sony gave what so many of us had been beyond eager to see, the presentation finally revealing more about the Playstation 5 as well as a multitude of upcoming game titles. It feels crazy to think it’s been seven years since I was sitting watching Sony’s E3 conference where they delivered the now-famous reveal of the PS4’s $399 MSRP after Microsoft had announced the Xbox One would be launching for $499. It’s also crazy to think of how different the gaming landscape was seven years ago – the Wii U, pre-Fortnite, and Knack being one of the “big” launch titles for the PS4. With the COVID-19 pandemic postponing many things indefinitely, including E3 2020, Sony staged an online presentation to show off their newest console and billed it as “The future of gaming”. The event lasted for over an hour and covered quite the range of both indie and AAA games, as well as providing more details about the PS5. Here’s a quick(ish) rundown of some of my thoughts on the presentation…

The Games

There were 21 different games shown during the presentation, ranging from quirky indie to epic AAA titles. There really wasn’t any games shown that to which I said “meh” and waited for the next video; here’s just a few of the games that stood out to me…

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Early on, we were given a trailer confirming that we are getting a follow up to Insomniac Games’ Playstation-exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man with Miles Morales as the game’s main playable character and announcing a release scheduled for Holiday 2020. There was some confusion the morning after the presentation as a headline stated the game will not be a standalone title, but rather an expansion to a ‘definitive edition’ of the PS4 game being released on the PS5. This was corrected later in the day by Insomniac, stating it WILL be a standalone title. The confusion around this leads me to assume Spider-Man: Miles Morales will be a standalone game, much the same way Uncharted: Lost Legacy is its own entry into the series. Spider-Man was not only one of my favorite games of 2018, but of ANY superhero game, right up there with the Batman Arkham games(from which Insomniac borrowed plenty). I cannot wait to play more on the PS5 when it releases later this year.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – Shortly after announcing their follow-up to Marvel’s Spider-Man, Insomniac revealed the next game in the long-running Ratchet & Clank series. The trailer for the next installment – Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart shows our favorite Lombax/robot duo investigating a series of interdimensional rifts that have appeared around the galaxy. The trailer shows Ratchet & Clank as they fall into the rifts and instantly switch between dimensions, reminiscent of the phase shifting sequences in Titanfall 2. The impressive thing about the Rift Apart trailer is how the game can seamlessly jump between two entirely different dimensions, which would be an interesting feature in a game to show off the PS5’s onboard SSD. Ratchet & Clank games have always been one of the most satisfying action/platformer games to play since their days on the PS2 and I’m completely onboard for the next one.

Gran Tourismo 7 – Another one of Playstation’s long-running franchises is the popular driving-sim Gran Tourismo. Shortly into the Sony presentation, Kazunori Yamauchi from Polyphony Digital introduced the trailer for the upcoming Gran Tourismo 7, showing some of the game’s campaign mode. Admittedly, I’ve never been very good at racing games, especially racing sims, but there’s always been something about the Gran Tourismo games in their polish and attention to detail that keeps them on my radar. A release date was not announced, but I’m going to be pretty interested to see more.

Bugsnax – I’m not gonna lie, even after watching the trailer for this strange game a couple times I don’t even know what it is, but there’s still something intriguing about the humor and creativity. I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one who laughed at the mention of ‘weenie hands’ along with having the song from the trailer stuck in their head the rest of the day(included below…you’re welcome AND I’m sorry).

Demon’s Souls Remake – I had read the rumors of a remaster or full-on remake of Demon’s Souls – the From Software’s 2009 PS3-exclusive that spawned a sub-genre that we now refer to as “Souls-type” games. I didn’t attempt to play Demon’s Souls until a few years after its US release, and despite really enjoying the game, have never completed it(as with all From Software games). Bluepoint Games teased the fact they were working on something big several months ago and their remake of Demon’s Souls looks absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to play it…well, attempt to anyways.

Resident Evil 8: Village – Of all the announcement trailers during Sony’s presentation, this one may have surprised me the most. It jumped between shots of an eerie village in the snowy countryside, a gothic castle residing over the village, a werewolf(?), and a very burly Chris Redfield. The game looks like a direct continuation of the story and first-person gameplay in RE7. No other information was provided at the time, but hinted at being the close of Chris'(or Ethan’s?) story through the Resident Evil games.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits – A brand new IP from Ember Lab, Kena: Bridge of Spirits was a pleasant surprise during the livestream. The little fuzzy spirits that seem to serve as your companions/weapons are adorable and reminded me at first of the little soot sprites in My Neighbor Totoro. The game looks like an adventure game reminiscent of Zelda or Horizon: Zero Dawn, but with a soft, colorful animation style that reminded me a bit of Ori and the Blind Forest.

Horizon: Forbidden West – It was no secret that a sequel to Horizon: Zero Dawn, one of my current-gen favorites, was in the works at Guerilla Games. The final game announced during Sony’s presentation was indeed the much-awaited sequel. One of my not-so-professional predictions on Twitter prior to the event was a formal announcement of a Horizon sequel(I went 1 for 4), but I still found myself going “Oh my god!” out loud the moment when Aloy quickly rides across the scene on the back of a strider. The announcement trailer showed that near future-Earth was still very much dominated by vegetation and wildlife, natural and robotic. We got to see Aloy using a mechanical mask to breath while swimming, indicating the sequel will include underwater areas for exploration. In addition to this, the video gave us glimpses of the wide range of terrain featured in the upcoming game. I could go on and on about how much I love Horizon: Zero Dawn or how excited I am for the next game so, to simply summarize – Giant robot turtles. Day 1 Puchase.

The Console

For the time spent during the event showcasing 21 different upcoming games, not very much time was spent on the Playstation 5 itself. About halfway through the presentation, we got to see a short video showing some of the new functions and features of the DualSense controller that Sony unveiled a couple months ago. The controller includes features like adaptive triggers and haptic feedback which, Sony hasn’t completely shown everything these features are capable of outside of a “variety of powerful sensations”. My initial assumption is this would be similar to the way Nintendo wanted to implement the HD Rumble ability in the Switch Joycons, remember feeling the ice cubes in your water glass? Other features of the DualSense controller that Sony has announced are things like alterations to the familiar form and light bar placement of the Dualshock 4. The DualSense also features a built-in microphone which Sony has stated will allow you to communicate with others without a traditional headset(interesting, but mildly skeptical). There’s also a Create button which ALSO has not been completely explained, but sounds as if it will be a further iteration of the PS4 controller’s Share button.

To cap off the event, Sony finally unveiled the Playstation 5 itself. The console is matching white/black to go with the DualSense controller and designed with a “skyscraper meets Space X” modern aesthetic. The design was met with a mix of applause and criticism afterwards, but was also memed endlessly on social media by pointing out how much it looked like the WiFi router to the Xbox Series X’s mini-fridge. Sony also revealed that not one, but two models of the PS5 will be available: standard and digital edition; the latter being disc drive-less for those who prefer to download their library of games. The Playstation 5 will also boast ray tracing, along with an SSD over a traditional hard drive. For everything that Sony revealed about the PS5, there’s still a few things that I really would have liked to see like…

More info on backwards compatibility – Sony confirmed several months ago the PS5 will feature backwards compatibility, but it was specifically stated that the “top 100 PS4 games” will be backwards compatible. Sony has not said anything else regarding which PS4 games will be able to be played on the PS5 or if it will allow play of older-gen games i.e. Playstation 2 or 3.

Pricing – Nothing was said during the presentation about the MSRP of the PS5, though several reports have come out in the past months speculating that Sony has been struggling to keep the price point as low as they can for the upcoming console. One of the elements that set the PS3 behind the Xbox 360 was the hefty $599 price tag at launch for the 60gb edition, something Sony made up for with the PS4’s reveal price of $399. Many have simply gone under the assumption that given the impressive specs the console is boasting, it’s unlikely it will be less than $499. The fact there are two separate versions of the PS5 does lead me to wonder if Sony will be aiming for something like a $499 price tag for the standard edition, and something like $399-449 for the digital edition. Perhaps the standard edition will allow for greater backwards compatibility as it’s equipped with a disc drive and those who would prefer to get ahold of a Playstation 5 for the lowest price possible could opt for the digital edition? Given the choice, I would be completely fine with paying a little bit more for the ability to play some of my old PS2 or PS3 games.

Release date – There was no specific release date given for the Playstation 5 during the presentation. Sony had previously announced they are aiming for a Holiday 2020 release, only five months away. The Sony livestream was in lieu of the usual E3 conference when such things are traditionally announced, so I would have loved to see a set release date.

Regardless of the questions that were left unanswered, I still felt it was a pretty strong showing for Sony as they revealed the “future of gaming” not as much in shiny new hardware, but giving us a taste of an interesting assortment of games we can (hopefully)expect to see in the next year or so. What were your thoughts on the Sony event? Do you plan on picking up a PS5?

I’m saving my pennies for later this year….thanks for reading!