And so this feast of consumerist speculation continues. The saying is, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That’s usually reasonable enough. But in this case the publisher has decided to show us only book covers, specifically in an effort to get us to talk about them, with the ultimate goal of selling us an expensive chunk of consumer electronics and a bunch of these $60 games. They have backed us into a corner where our only option is cover-judging. So that’s what we’re going to do.
So let’s get to the snap decisions and half-baked reactions!
Resident Evil Village
As I’ve said before, I just can’t get on the right wavelength to enjoy Capcom’s games. This style of jokeless comedy and frightless horror leaves me feeling confused and annoyed. I know some people love this nonsense for the inherent absurdity of it all, but to me it feels like the author is asking me to take the world more seriously than they do. The tone is adrift in this odd no-man’s land where it’s too silly to be scary and yet not silly enough to be funny. On top of it all, the gameplay feels like it’s deliberately designed to be irritating and immersion breaking, where you’re constantly hampered by inventory hassles and save game restrictions that make the game harder through weird interface design that blurs the line between things that are literal and things that are gameplay abstractions.
The knife fight with Krauser in Resident Evil 4 is the perfect example of something that seems to be precision-engineered to annoy me: A horrendous nonsensical cutscene that you must loop through forever until you can overcome the spine-numbing tedium of the quicktime events. And then once you’re done with that garbage you realize the entire scene was a pointless waste of time that had no useful information for the audience. The dialog is a markov chain of random lowbrow action movie tropes, but it doesn’t do anything subversive or deconstructionist with the material. It’s just a modestly more stupid version of something that was already stupid.
In my book, you need to either take the goofy lowbrow material and make it smartYour mileage may vary. like Quentin Tarantino, or you need to exaggerate the flaws to lampoon it in the style of Naked Gun, or make something deconstructionist like Shaun of the Dead / Galaxy Quest. Resident Evil isn’t a satire of B-movie schlock, it is B-movie schlock.
I’m not saying that these games shouldn’t exist or that you’re bad for liking them. I’m just trying to keep my head and avoid doing anything foolish. See, as much as I hate these games, Capcom is really good at making trailers that appeal to me and my love for slow-burn Japanese-style horror. The trailers always try to sell us on this tense and spooky mood that never materializes in the game itself. My friends always tell me, “No this one is different, Shamus. I’m SURE you’ll like this one. Trust me!”
And then I’ll find myself sitting through an agonizingly nonsensical cutscene and I’ll realize I’ve been bamboozled again.
Still, that trailer did look pretty cool…
Kena Bridge of Spirits
Do we have enough of these games now that we can stop calling them “Zelda Clones” and give the genre a proper name? We’ve got Ōkami, Hob, the original Darksiders, and a smattering of others that escape me at the moment. The genre description boils down to “Feels like an open world RPG except with puzzles and you don’t level up from combat and also the art is stylized.”
I’d suggest “Adventure Game”, but sadly that descriptor is already taken by the various descendants of King’s Quest.
I realize that genres are inherently porus, overlapping, intersecting, ever-changing, and poorly named. But dang it, we need words to communicate these complex ideas. The term “Action RPG” is reductive and ambiguous, but it’s better than saying “top-down game where you kill large numbers of weak foes to feed a Skinner-box driven gameplay loop where power levels continually climb in order to gradually render your equipment obsolete so that you’re always driven by a need to find something better” every time I want to talk about something in the Diablo lineage.
Anyway, this looks like a charming little Zelda clone.
I was captivated when I saw this world inhabited by robots, and then kinda lost interest when it was revealed it was a game about being a cat. On the other hand, my wife didn’t express the slightest interest in the trailer until the cat showed up, at which point she was very excited.
I love how the end screen for the trailer proclaims in large block letters PLAYSTATION 5 CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE, and then says “Also available on PC” at the bottom. I saw this sort of thing several times during the PS5 reveal. It’s this weird message of, “THIS GAME IS ONLY AVAILABLE ON PLAYSTATION. AND ALSO PC BUT THAT DOESN’T COUNT.”
A dozen years ago, the PC gaming space was in shambles. DRM was both obnoxious and ubiquitous. Games For Windows LIVE was generating a never-ending steam of technological fuckups. PC gaming required a bit of technical expertise to keep up with the graphics card treadmill. All of this drove gamers into the arms of consoles, which made everything worse. Since the PC audience was shrinking, publishers didn’t see the platform as a priority. Which means nobody wanted to spend the time and money to do proper PC ports, which made a lot of console-first titles slow, buggy, cumbersome, and stripped of features on the PC, which sent even more people to the consoles, and so on.
As a result, the consoles were content to fight amongst each other and nobody cared about the PC.
But now? PC gaming is thriving. VR and streamingYou need a decent PC for streaming. And if you’ve got a decent PC, then it’s easiest to make that your default gaming platform., have boosted the PC platform back into competition with the othersAnd arguably, ahead of them. Statistics are tricky and it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison.. Games for Windows LIVE is dead, and its heir is languishing in obscurity and irrelevance. Once-niche activities like modding, emulation, and retro gaming are a little more mainstream than they were in the aughts. Gaming input devices for Windows have solidified around the Xbox Controller and its various clones, which means the odds are good you can just plug in a controller and expect the inputs to make sense without needing to endure a lengthy configuration process. I don’t think we’re in another golden age, but it’s been almost two decades since things were this good.
So it’s kind of interesting that the publishers want to play keep-away on the consoles through platform exclusives, but are content to let developers port things to the PC. I’m not complaining. Again, this is just one more thing making the PC so nice these days.
In any case, I think this indifference to the PC makes marketing sense. Twelve years ago they didn’t care about the PC because they felt the platform wasn’t large enough to be a threat. Now they don’t care about the PC because they’ve (finally) figured out it’s not really a direct rival.
As I’ve said in the past: The PC vs. consoles is less about the technology and more about where you like to sit. Sure, fanboys argue about framerates, favorite titles, mouse vs. joystick, modding, and all the other details that differentiate the PC from consoles. But at the end of the day I think those things don’t really matter when someone is shopping for gaming hardware. Either you want something to put in the living room so you can play games on your couch, or you want something to put on your desk so you can play games in your office chair.
Where are you more comfortable? Is the living room available for gaming or do you need to share that space with a family? Is it okay to have violence and nudity on your television, or do you have little kids wandering around the living room? Do you have the technical expertise to maintain a proper gaming PC? Do you need to maintain a Mac computer for work reasons? Did you grow up on consoles?
If you’ve got an office area with an up-to-date Windows PC and the living room is controlled by your parents / children, then PC gaming is the path of least resistance for you. If you want to sit on your couch and shoot some dudes at the end of a long day of work, then you’re not likely to switch to PC because it promises higher technical numbers. Do you have the room and furniture for a full desktop gaming PC setup, or do you just need a small deviceYes, modern consoles are almost as large as a PC. But the PC also needs dedicated monitor(s), a mouse and keyboard, speakers, and maybe some extras like a webcam / microphone setup. you can put beside the television?
PC and console fans argue over specs and exclusives, but that’s got nothing to do with how these decisions get made. This is a fight about furniture and living spaces more than technology.
Last time we talked about Death Loop, and here’s yet another game built around the idea of looping time. And we had Prey: Mooncrash a couple of years ago. It’s interesting how these patterns emerge. Remember the dad game crazeThe Walking Dead (2012), Last of Us (2013), BioShock Infinite (2013), and God of War (2018). Perhaps partial credit goes to the original Dishonored (2012) and Heavy Rain (2010)? where you had a kid sidekick?
I wish I knew what this was. Like nearly all the other games in this presentation, the trailer was all cutscenes and no gameplay.
The pervasive darkness and death mechanics make me think this game is aiming for something Dark Soulsian. But then we have a voiced protagonist experiencing a predetermined plot through cutscenes, and that goes against the expectations of that genre. Then again, last year’s Jedi: Fallen Order kinda followed that same formula of “bonfires”In this context, a bonfire is a specific map location that will replenish your health and healing supplies, but also respawn all the enemies, thus creating a tension between the hindrance of using them and the risk of skipping them. + unforgiving combat + fixed character + cutscenes.
So I dunno. I suppose it’s good we can’t tell what a game is just by looking at cinematic trailers. For a while our genres have been stuck in a rut and it’s nice to see folks mixing it up again.
I’m hoping this one won’t be too punishing, because I really dig the look of it.
So you wander around a depopulated Tokyo shooting ghosts and using superpowers? This sounds crazy enough to be really interesting.
I don’t know how to begin to parse this game. What is it? A guy in a space suit explores an abandoned city. Then he uses some sort of holographic mist to find a robot girl and a transparent cat. Then the sky shatters like glass as if they’re inside of a Truman Show style bubble, and they go through a magic door to the moon. (The cat does not come with.) Then they have a short conversation and then space suit guy says something about freedom.
There’s no gameplay. Our spaceman doesn’t seem to have a weapon and his suit is much too bulky for platforming. So it’s anyone’s guess what sort of game this is.
I was intrigued by the surrealist setting, but then I saw the Capcom logo. Like I said above, Capcom is great at making smart and captivating trailers for their stupid and irritating games. The little girl seems like a fascinating companion, but she’ll probably turn out to be a screeching dimwitted nuisance that gets captured in every other cutscene, like the President’s Daughter in Resident Evil 4. The weird technology seems interesting now, but it’s probably just a blank check that allows the writer to make random shit happen in cutscenes without needing to establish rules or set up things ahead of time, logic be damned. The space suit makes our protagonist seem mysterious, but they’ll probably turn out be another dipshit like Chris Redfield, who stands around doing nothing in cutscenes while foes take an exposition dump on him before trying to murder him.
Okay, I know I’m being unfair. There’s no hint that this game will be stupid nonsense. But once again I find myself watching a cool cutscene followed by the Capcom logo. I’m just trying to stop myself from repeating the mistakes of the past.
Horizon: Forbidden West
I never got around to playing Horizon: Zero Dawn. I remember liking the looks of it way back when it appeared at E3, but somehow the game never made it into my playlist.
Zero Dawn is apparently coming to the PC this summerFor context: Yes, I own a Playstation 4. But my PS4 is currently on loan. My youngest brother is a HUGE fan of Final Fantasy VII, and I couldn’t bear to play the remake before him., so I might check it out. We don’t have a release date yet, which is a little odd. I mean, summer starts in two days. It seems a little weird to be this close to release and STILL not have a firm date. More importantly, this game needs to come out before September. Cyberpunk 2077 comes out on September 17, and at that point no other games will matter.
But what if Horizon comes out on September 1st, Shamus? That should be enough time to play through it!
See, I don’t just need to play through it, I need to play through it and write about it. It takes at least a couple of weeks to play a game, digest it, do a bit of research, and write a few thousand words about it. Also, I’d really appreciate it if Horizon landed sooner, because this summer is promising to be particularly dry. Watchdogs: Legion, Bloodlines 2, and Kerbal Space Program 2 have all been delayed. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is supposed to come out this year, but the year is halfway over and we still don’t have a release date.
It’s looking more and more like the end of this year is going to be a huge pile-up, and I’d really appreciate it if I could take a couple of titles out of the fall deluge and have them here in the summer drought.
What? I was supposed to be talking about Horizon: Forbidden West? Oh right.
I dunno. Looks interesting, but whatever. I have to get through the first game before I know what to make of it.
And the Rest…
Let’s do the rest of these in rapid-fire…
Oddworld Soulstorm: I’m not really a fan of the Oddworld series. I played Abe’s
Odyssey Exodus years ago. I liked it at first, but a few hours in I hit this impassible skill wallI don’t remember it exactly, but you had to get past some slugs that could instantly eat Abe if he got too close. I had no idea what I was doing wrong, but I couldn’t take two steps across the screen without getting nommed. and gave up. I’ve avoided the series since then.
Jett: The Far Shore: How interesting. This is a game from Superbrothers. They made the 2D Sword & Sworcery back in 2011. I own that game and I found the art enticing, but I never got around to playing all the way through it. But here comes the team nine years later with a fancy 3D game. I feel like there’s a story that I’m missing.
Godfall: I don’t know why, but this demo gives me a sort of Warframe-ish kinda vibe? But then the developer describes it as a looter-slasher, with a Borderlands / Diablo-style loot grind. I guess it all comes down to what the combat feels like, and it’s hard to judge that based on footage. I don’t know. This could be a brilliant game with a high skill ceiling, or it could be a microtransaction-driven abomination that favors button-mashing and buying premium gear. It’s too soon to tell, but I do enjoy a good loot grind.
Solar Ash: Wow. This art is fantastic. This is by the same team that made Hyper Light Drifter. It’s amazing how distinctive this art style is. It’s instantly recognizable, even though HLD is top-down 2D and Solar Ash looks third-person 3D.
Astro’s Playroom: If you ever wanted to play Super Mario Sunshine with a robot instead of Mario, then your day has finally come.
Bugsnax: From the people who brought you Octodad: Dadliest Catch, it’s more relentlessly weird shit! This one does nothing for me. I feel like it’s trying too hard to be cute. Or something. I dunno. It weirded me out.
So that’s the PS5 reveal. We don’t know what it will cost and we don’t know what the gameplay looks like for most of these games. But we’re all talking about it, so we’ve played into the hands of the Sony Marketing Department again.
Still, they need to sell us the system before any of this matters, and I’m not sold until I see a price tag.
 Your mileage may vary.
 You need a decent PC for streaming. And if you’ve got a decent PC, then it’s easiest to make that your default gaming platform.
 And arguably, ahead of them. Statistics are tricky and it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison.
 Yes, modern consoles are almost as large as a PC. But the PC also needs dedicated monitor(s), a mouse and keyboard, speakers, and maybe some extras like a webcam / microphone setup.
 The Walking Dead (2012), Last of Us (2013), BioShock Infinite (2013), and God of War (2018). Perhaps partial credit goes to the original Dishonored (2012) and Heavy Rain (2010)?
 In this context, a bonfire is a specific map location that will replenish your health and healing supplies, but also respawn all the enemies, thus creating a tension between the hindrance of using them and the risk of skipping them.
 For context: Yes, I own a Playstation 4. But my PS4 is currently on loan. My youngest brother is a HUGE fan of Final Fantasy VII, and I couldn’t bear to play the remake before him.
 I don’t remember it exactly, but you had to get past some slugs that could instantly eat Abe if he got too close. I had no idea what I was doing wrong, but I couldn’t take two steps across the screen without getting nommed.
Revisiting a Dead Engine
I wanted to take the file format of a late 90s shooter and read it in modern-day Unity. This is the result.
Blistering Stupidity of Fallout 3
Yeah, this game is a classic. But the story is idiotic, incoherent, thematically confused, and patronizing.
Best. Plot Twist. Ever.
Few people remember BioWare's Jade Empire, but it had a unique setting and a really well-executed plot twist.
The Biggest Game Ever
How did this niche racing game make a gameworld so massive, and why is that a big deal?
The product of fandom run unchecked, this novel began as a short story and grew into something of a cult hit.