Review – Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection – Play it again Kris….

So in preparation for Uncharted for I decided to break my 1 golden gaming rule.

Never play anything twice…

Now to most folks this seems like rather lousy rule, I have been asked a great many times over the years why I do this and it is pretty simple it comes down to two things.

  1. I find very little value in solving puzzles a second time, and repeating a story, no matter how great, to me just seems pointless. I also never read books twice and seldom watch a movie or even TV series again.
  2. I just don’t have the time to revisit games. When you play 60+ games on average a   year, there is no time to go back and play something again. With a backlog pushing 200 games, it is really hard to justify another round of an old fave.

But after reading so many good things about the Nathan Drake Redux, I decided I may as well take a shot and it would help continuity wise on the overall Uncharted story.

Well color me surprise to find that I remember slightly over 1% of the games… My wife calls it C.R.A.F.T. disease, as in Can’t Remember A Fucking Thing. And she is not wrong. I was dumbfounded to find that I recalled literally zero plot from Uncharted 1 and 2 and only a few little plot points in 3.

I remembered no puzzles, no locations, and had some faint memories of big actions scenes in 3 and the train climb in Uncharted 2.

So needless to say, I may need to revise my no second playthrough rule, shit, I may as well keep my games instead of selling them and just rotate the playlist ever 5 year, I may never need to buy a new game again.

So back to more important matters, how does the Uncharted trilogy hold up after 10 years?

In a word, Fantastic.

The games offer nothing much in terms of new content, as there is nothing added to the stories or such and it is all primarily retextured graphics, but boy have they done a good thing here.

If you have never played these games on the PS3, do yourself a favor and stop reading now, and go buy the collection. You will not be disappointed at all.

The games themselves hold up extremely well, they look like they belong on the PS4, and you would be hard pressed to find any technical reasons that they feel last gen.

The combat holds up well, the AI is reasonable with only a slight glitch here or there.

The visuals have received a substantial bump though. Check out any of the side by side videos on YouTube and you will be shocked at how good a job the did with the remaster. They revamped Drake in 1 and 2 to look much more like his Uncharted 4 counterpart.

Some of the additional content comes in the form of and added difficulty (Brutal) and speed run modes where you can compete via a leaderboard for the fasted run through the game.

There is also a new Explorer difficulty that allows for you to explore and look for treasure without the bother of enemies harshing your game.

Lastly the have added a fantastic camera mode to all 3 titles. You essentially pause the game and have full control over the camera, more so than in traditional game play. You can tilt, pan, zoom and off set the camera, then snap some amazing shots of the beautiful world of Uncharted.

For the bargain basement price $49.99 for 3 full games you can’t go wrong.

On a single play-through on Crushing difficulty you will be looking at about 10 hours for story more per game, a little more depending on your puzzle solving prowess.

A Solid 9/10.

Alert, Alert! Rift incoming!

So after what has felt like a lifetime, my Oculus Rift has finally shipped. The little VR that started it all is finally coming home to roost and it is a bittersweet culmination to years of waiting on VR.

From a completely botched launch, to Oculus screwing its day one pre-orders by sending thousands of Rifts to retail before fulfilling their obligation, it has been one bumpy ride for the last month and a half.

Now that I have spent the last 40 days with the Vive, is the shine off the VR diamond?

Yes and no.

While having spend a considerable amount of time in VR in the last month, it has left me feeling a little wanting.

Now don’t misunderstand, I love the Vive and the idea of where it will be in a year is very intriguing, but it lacks one very major aspect. Polish.

The Vive offers something the competition does not (not now at least) and that is room scale VR. But at what cost? Polish.

The Vive feels like the DK2 did back in the day, with tons of things to do and try, but none of them with any real substance. The Steam store is littered with expensive tech demos. Throw away titles that you buy, try, and never turn on again sadly.

That is the key difference between the Rift and Vive, the games. Where the Rift itself has a full library of games, and by games I mean completed, start to finish, 8-10 hours, games! Not half baked, over priced, money grabs that fill the Steam store.

I have yet to spend more than 2 hours in a single story type game on the Vive. Why? Are they not good enough? Nope, it is certainly not for lack of wanting. It comes down to devs offering up tease like tastes of full products. There isn’t nay full length games for Vive at the moment unfortunately.

Where the Vive is filled with episodic content and tech demos, the Rift delivers full games. With titles like Chronos, The Climb, Lucky’s Tale, Eve: Valkyrie to name a few, all of which offer full in depth games.

I think this is one key factor to the Oculus store, it is as if Oculus has told devs that you have to offer full products to be part of their storefront, and good for them if that is the case, because it only furthers their stance on quality.

They seem to be going the route of Apple, where standards come into play for their products. That is not a slam against Vive, but it is akin to the age old war of Mac vs PC.

Oculus is trying very hard to emulate Apple / Mac. Making for a more refined experience, at the sacrifice of customization. And the Vive is the PC, sacrificing ease of use for flexibility.

You can play just about anything on the Vive, including some Rift titles with some hacking, but it is a flaky buggy product most days, oft requiring tweaks and frequent reboots just to get it running.

So for the time being, I fully intend to keep both and see where the dust settles. For the time being there is a huge divide in content and until that gap closes, the only way to get all VR has to offer, is purchase both and enjoy it while it lasts.

VR games – to gouge, or not to gouge, that is the question!

So I have had my Vive now for almost 4 weeks. I have dropped about $350 on content and a disturbing trend has emerged that needs addressing.

Indie devs are treating VR game pricing like a flea market. Because the market is so starved for good content, it is a free for all for our wallets, and this needs to stop.

I knew the price of admission was high, but we all paid that in out Rifts and Vives. The content here is key to this market succeeding, and bending your customers over a barrel is the fastest way you can drive VR back into the cyber hole it clawed out of.

When I bought one of the first line of commercially available DVD players it was $1500. So not too dissimilar to VR really. My first DVD cost me $25, this was a significant savings over Laserdisc or VHS at the time. And i am sure that movie production companies were not selling a boatload either as there was so few players in the market, they did not gouge the consumer, because they understood the market was growing, a small ember that needed to be nurtured to ignite into the home video market we have today.

But an awful trend is emerging right now. Devs are deciding to chop their games into chapters to get something to market first. Now this is a solid stratagy in a way, you get your product into a market devoid of content in hopes of cashing in. A sound business plan.

This of course means there needs to be a cost per chapter, but if you intend to make a 5 chapter game, then us early adopters are getting screwed to the tune of $100 for an indie game. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Seriously, for an untested new IP, on a platform we have no idea how long it will last, and you think this is fair?
Don’t get me wrong, indie has come a long way, but when I can buy a AAA title for PSVR this fall for $59.99, why would I spend $100 on a game that will take who knows how long to come out?

This is compounded by the fact that these chapters range in length from 1-2 hours of play, and can cost you $20 on the low end (Fated), or as much as $40 on the high side (Gallery: Call of Starseed)

The price / release model is garbage right now. I would rather wait a year and buy Fated as a complete title for $60, than get nickle and dimed over the next year or so.

I have seen devs crying out on Reddit that this model is because VR is so new, and they cannot even hope to break even, even with this price.

I know this will come off as awful, but tough shit. If Ford cannot afford to pay its workers to make vehicles without charging me $100,000 for a Ford Feista, and I only get the steering wheel and seats right now, then their business plan was poorly thought out and should not have even come to light.

Maybe you needed to kickstart your game then, or seek more funds from the bank, or do whatever is needed to make a name for yourself, but putting out a glorified beta / tech demo, charging $20, then crying it is not enough will not garner any sympathy from me.

I see a lot of devs have drank the VR kool-aid, and they believe that there is a quick buck to be made, and they are right to an extent. But is it not better to sell 1000 games at $5 each, or 100 games at $20? Putting out shitty content for a good price, or good content for a shitty price, is all the same.

A crappy game can sell millions if it is cheap enough, look at flappy bird. Make the right game at the right price and you will be laughing all the way to the bank, but get yourself into social media because fans are crying fowl over your pricing structure is a guaranteed way to ensure your little studio will be gone in a year.

My only hope is that in very short order we will see this sort of thing stop, as more devs enter the market, the first round of get the money and run games are going to have to step up to the plate, as the competition will get stiffer and people will not just throw down money on every game that comes out because they are so starved for content.

A market where we fans of VR are like junkies looking for the next VR fix is a dangerous place for us all, as we are at the mercy of the dealers who have no problem giving you that fix, for the right price. So let your dollars speak folks, let devs know you are not willing to stand for this behavior.

Until then…

Psssst, hey buddy, wanna buy some episodes?

Review – Firewatch – Burn baby burn!

So after a small sale on PSN I decided it was finally time to grab Firewatch by Campo Santo.

This is a tough one to review without giving anything away. At its core it is a first person exploration game.

You are a new ranger in Yellowstone national park in the late 80’s, armed with nothing more than a backpack and a walkie-talkie, you set off to keep the park safe from the threat of fire.

The voice on the other end of the radio is your partner in crime, Delilah, a smooth talking long time ranger who really makes the game what it is.

At the core this is  a deeply human story, something I did not come to expect at all buying it, the trailers eluded to same witty banter between you and ranger D, but it is much much deeper than that.

It is about home, and what it means to run away from your problems, to walk away from the things we should be holding on to.

I can’t say more than that without spoiling things, but trust me, this one is a rare gem in a sea of mindless action games.

The game is rather simple, there is not a whole lot to do per se, and it mostly exploring the park looking for this object or that, all while having interesting conversations with Delilah. But this is in no way a negative, the game plays out more like an interactive novel in a sense than a true adventure game.

The conversations do have paths to them, and you have a limited amount of time to answer or ask a question, and I am not certain how things could play out differently based on your choices, as the narrative seems pretty set in stone.

That said I may take another spin towards the end to see if I can change a certain outcome.

With many plot twists and turns, intrigue and emotion, it is very easy to recommend Firewatch.

It will set you back about $15 on PSN when on sale, and took me about 4 hours to make my way through.

All in all well worth the price of admission.

A solid 8/10