Dienstag, 12. Juni 2018

GTA Online - Still The Greatest Thing Ever Made

We re-visited the ultimate asshole simulator to play the Doomsday Heist. It's insanely good - if you can afford to unlock it or have the patience of a saint.

I can honestly say that I know Los Santos better than I know my own town. I don't need my GPS to get to most places these days. There's Del Perro Pier with the ferris wheel and the rollercoaster. Drive up the road a bit from there and you get to Del Perro Heights, where most of my German heist mates live, because it's the cheapest safehouse you can get as a base of operations for heists. They're not really active anymore these days, but back then we completed all of the heists together several times. I remember spamming C4 all over the parking lot to nuke my friends the moment they'd come out with their cars. Sometimes we'd troll each other with attack helicopters and dick around with them right in front of the windows of the Del Perro apartments. Good times.

You kinda had to be there.
Bit 'round the corner from there is Little Seoul, where Claire's mother owns the shittest apartment in all of Los Santos. It's filthy, you can almost smell the cold smoke from hundreds of cigarettes and permanently-closed windows. Her character is some sort of punky murder hobo. Unlike my high-rolling German friends, she usually gets around on a little pushbike or in some ancient car, bumps into random people at the beach to start brawls between them or sits on random rooftops to watch the police AI glitch out. We don't really play any super challenging content together, but entertain ourselves by piling up lots of cars to watch them chain-explode.

Up north from there you'll come to the Eclipse Towers, where I've got my place with its original interior, before they made it all customizable. You can get to Vinewood Hills from there, which is where Claire lives in what's probably the nicest house you can currently get in the game. I'll always be jealous of that, but I'm not buying any other homes unless they suddenly decide to start selling one of those fakey Malibu Beach houses.
Every corner of this virtual city has some happy memories attached to it, whether we were trying to catapult each other onto the rooftops of random buildings, dropped each other's cars in random swimming pools with cargobobs or crash-landed airplanes right on top of each other in the middle of a busy road. GTA Online has this ridiculously massive assortment of tools, which allow you to be an absolute cunt to all of your online friends, enemies and the virtual citizens of Los Santos. I absolutely love it.

Of course the main reason why we're back on there right now isn't the happy memories or even the joyous torture of friends and loved ones. It's the new Doomsday Heist. Well... by 'new' I mean it was added last year, but we haven't touched it until recently, because gaining access is stupidly expensive and getting to the actual heist content requires even more money or forced online play in public lobbies. So unless you're part of a very active heist team that piles up millions and millions of GTA Dollars, chances are, you're gonna be spending so much money on Shark Cards in order to unlock the new content, you might as well be buying a brand new AAA game. It took me a €45 Megalodon Shark Card to get to all of the good stuff (and skip the annoying public shit). So for all the praise Rockstar get for their "free content updates", they really aren't free at all for anyone but the most dedicated players out there. Because with the ~15k you make in an average mission, you'll be spending the rest of your life grinding out the cash required to unlock all this.

Check out my free new airplane from the free hangar update, which only costs about 40 real life Dollars to unlock!
In order to gain access to the Doomsday Heist content, you need to be either a CEO or the president of a Biker Club, meaning you'll have to buy a company building or a clubhouse. Happy spending! You also need a so-called "facility", a supervillain underground lair of sorts, which is going to set you back another 1.2 million if you go for the absolute cheapest variety with no extras attached. Starting each of the three heist scenarios costs hundreds of thousands in GTA cash. And then there's the prep work. You're gonna have to steal a bunch of vehicles and other gadgets before you can even play the setup missions or the actual heist. Which doesn't sound so bad until you realize this can only be done in a public lobby. And on PC that means constant harassment, trolling and cheaters everywhere.

It's frustrating enough when you're supposed to move a vehicle from one location to another when today's version of GTA has explosive sniper and shotgun ammo, which nukes pretty much anything in a single shot. When you get people constantly caging you, dropping airplanes on your character and remote-nuking you with mod menus, a frustrating, brutally unfair prep mission becomes impossible. The good news is that you can skip all the forced public session crap, if you don't want to put up with this nonsense. The bad news is that doing so costs even more money, meaning the setup to any of these heist scenarios can set you back a million GTA Dollars, meaning you'll earn absolutely fuck all at the end of it. I wasn't joking when I said you'd be spending AAA-game money just to have a chance to play this "free" new content.

All right! So far, 100% of the stuff I've done this update is pay for things. Let's see if it's fun to play.
What you get in return, however, is some of the best content in the entire game and some of the best multiplayer gameplay I've enjoyed in any game for a long while. The whole thing kicks off with cutscenes and voice-acting just like the previous heists and you get to see familiar faces like Lester Crest and one of the FIB guys from previous heists, as well as some creepy over the top Elon Musk knockoff, whose hair is totally natural and he's dating a lot, you guys! The presentation is in every way as good as it was with previous content of this nature, so there's that.

Each of the three heist scenarios comes with its own selection of set-up missions and an actual heist finale, so there's an easy ten or so hours of content here for a first playthrough - more, if you're brave enough to attempt the public free mode prep work. The whole thing is also a bit more flexible than the original heists. Rather than locking you into teams of exactly 4 players (or 2 in case of the Fleeca practice heist), each and every Doomsday mission can be played with 2-4 people. Claire and I did the whole thing as a duo at level 160, which was extremely challenging in places, but doable.

Yay for references from James Bond to Back to the Future!
Almost all of the new missions are incredibly fun to play, not just because you get a whole bunch of new toys to play around with, but also the way in which they are introduced. There's the new DeLorean... sorry, DeLuxo, easily the coolest new addition of the Doomsday Heist update. You start a mission driving around in one of these cars while hacking some armored transports around town. Once the hacking is complete, you get to destroy the transports, which is when the game tells you that your new car can fire a bunch of guided missiles.
Once that's done, your next set of targets is on the water. That's where you get to activate the DeLuxo's hover mode and glide across the waves as you chase after your next set of targets. The mission ultimately takes you to Los Santos Airport, where the DeLuxo's flight mode gets activated. Now you're hacking an airliner with your flying car whilst battling attack helicopters. It looks even more insane than it sounds and it's easily some of the coolest shit I've ever done on there.

At this point I'm not even mad I had to pay for this.
You get to play around with tanks, jetpacks, missile launchers and stealth choppers. There's one mission where a bunch of heavily-armored baddies stalk you with miniguns and a cloaking device, so you need to rely on thermal vision to spot them. There is so much absolutely insane, over the top stuff happening in each Doomsday scenario, that I can easily forgive some of the weaker missions, despite their annoying clown-car mechanics and unfair checkpoints (or lack thereof). But yes, there are some frustrating moments.
There's one mission in particular, which requires you to hack four servers in the largest, most maze-like server room I've ever seen in any game, ever. Infinite enemies spawn everywhere around you, which makes things incredibly fun when you attempt this mission with only two players like we did.

Once you're done with this bit, you get to escape the server room. Players start on opposite ends of the room and fight their way through towards a central staircase, which is absolutely crawling with enemies. They're surrounding the stairs, they're ON the stairs, they're doing a circle-jerk around the very top of the stairs, shooting you from every direction the moment you make it up there. Once you make it out there, you're faced with a dozen or so cop-cars, a swat team and a bunch of helicopters attacking from every single direction. You get one spare life shared between the team. Lose it and if anybody dies at any point during the escape bit, you'll be sent all the way back to the server room.

The server room of doom
There's another mission where you're supposed to find and escort an NPC, who is trapped in a building full of enemies. That alone would be stressful enough, but the other team (or player, if you duo it) has to sit in a remote corner of the map and snipe enemies, which will never stop respawning and eventually overwhelm them if the rescue team takes too long to free the NPC. And this is where some of GTA's more bullshit mechanics really start to show. Each enemy can take as much as 28,429 hits to the body if you don't hit them right in the head. What's worse, they just fall over after every other hit or so, meaning they'll just lie on the floor, usually behind cover, and take for ever to finally get up again, so you get another chance at shooting them in the head. It's insanely frustrating and tedious, but trying to rush past these enemies will get you killed almost instantly. Knocking them over too many times instead of killing them will cost you precious time and get your team mates killed.
It doesn't help that enemy spawns have always been crap in this game. Sometimes you will simply trigger a spawn, causing bad guys to appear literally behind you, who will immediately begin to shoot you before you can react. There's nothing more frustrating than almost completing a mission on the 20th attempt, only to get fucked over by some jerkwad, who magically materialized out of thin air right behind you.

Cutscenes in Doomsday are top-notch.
Of course, flying cars with homing missiles and similar new gadgets also mean that public online mode is now more fucked than it ever has been, with or without hacks. Everything these days has a mounted turret, explosive ammo, drops mines, cluster bombs and napalm. Which is great for those, who simply want a bit of mindless fun and cause as much destruction and mayhem as possible in the process. Personally, I prefer closed sessions, which are restricted to friends and crewmembers. Let's hope that at least some future content will be available in this mode, because forcing public play really isn't all that great.

If you still have friends you play GTA with and you've got what it takes to tackle some of the game's toughest content, then the Doomsday Heist is absolutely worth it, even if you'll likely me forced to shell out a whole bunch of cash just to access it. There's also the fact that, if you complete the heist missions as the leader, you'll get massive discounts on all the new vehicles and toys.
Still, remember the good old days where the most expensive thing you could get was a Zentorno for around 700k and where the entrance fee to a heist was a 200k apartment? Having to spend millions and millions for every little bit of new content simply isn't fun. Sure, people pay for it, myself included, which is why Rockstar are still raking in stupid amounts of cash with this game almost a half decade after release. But I remember when staying up to date with an online game required a cheap subscription and the occasional expansion pack. Keeping up in GTA means spending AAA money with every update these days and I don't like that. If only it wasn't so damn fun!

Montag, 28. Mai 2018

Warring in Hyrule

Why the fuck is this hot to me?
I don't like the Zelda games very much. I thought Ocarina of Time was absolutely breathtaking for a console game back in the day, but I didn't enjoy it enough to play much further than the water temple. Never touched another Zelda game (save for a bit of Twilight Princess on Dolphin) until Breath of the Wild, which is one of my all-time favourite games. I've completed the story in a matter of days, I've uncovered the entire map, cleared a whole lot of shrines and I still dick around with it on occasion. I've got my cool armor sets, my sexy horse armor on a really pimped-out mount, and I'm still going on weird adventures from time to time. I really love this game.

With that in mind, you can't deny that BotW isn't your typical Zelda game. "Dungeons" are bite-sized, apart from the four beasts, it's all open world and exploration and survival and a bit of Skyrim and a touch of Dark Souls and a lot of stupid breaking weapons and fun and mystery and wonder and I wanna fire it up again right now, just from writing about it.
Not that there's anything wrong with classic Zelda games. They're just not for me. I never completed one, they never kept me hooked long enough, it's just not my kind of game, I suppose. So the fact that I play the absolute shit out of BotW, while it's still Claire's only Zelda game she has never come even close to finishing, does suggest it's really unlike any other game of the series. Good for me. Yay!

And then came Hyrule Warriors. Technically, Hyrule Warriors came years ago, but none of the 36 people around the world who bought a WiiU happen to be me, so I didn't play the original release. I did play it on the 3DS for a while and actually quite enjoyed it, but that version is scaled down so much, I never really took it seriously enough to be more than bathroom entertainment. Look, it's a perfectly servicable version of the game if you want to play it on the go and you don't own a Switch, but the Switch version simply looks and plays a lot better for obvious reasons.

Not the prettiest game on the system, but the massively overpowered main characters are a sight to behold.
To be honest, I really just bought this game on the Switch because I have more money than sense. 2018 has been a bit of a shit year for the console, so far. Dark Souls is getting delayed (and I'm starting to wonder whether or not it'll be released at all at this point), there's a bunch of really shit new indie games (FUCK YOU, $30 Moorhuhn!) Donkey Kong is an overpriced re-release and, if we're being honest, so is Hyrule Warriors. But I just finished Telltale's excellent Batman, WWE2K18 was made completely unplayable by a recent firmware update with no fix in sight, so heyho, let's get something new(ish) already!

I went into Hyrule Warriors as a complete newcomer to all things (classic) Zelda and Dynasty Warriors. I had no clue that Sheik is actually Zelda, I only know Midna from the rule34 archives and I still don't know what fucking game Ghirahim or however the fuck you spell him is from. So most of the game's fan-service is clearly lost on me. But damn, am I having fun!
Hyrule Warriors reminds me of massive MMO-style battlegrounds, where countless players battle back and forth over territory, trying to capture keeps and resources. You do the exact same thing, except you're offline, nobody hides to go AFK and there's no chat where one guy with zero kills and 20 deaths complains about how everyone in his faction is a complete retard. Awesome!

I don't even know most of these characters, but they're all super fun to play.
If there's one thing I dislike about the game, it's the excessive amount of padding. Every level contains a bunch of hidden stuff (read: heart containers) for multiple characters, usually requiring you to beat each mission at least twice. And then twice more on hard mode after you complete the story for the first time, because let's put even more bonus crap everywhere.
One thing I do like, however, is jolly cooperation, so I forced Claire to play the split-screen co-op mode with me. The game becomes significantly easier that way, because we can focus on different goals at the same time, whereas it's easy to get overwhelmed by a million things happening all at once when you play solo. The downside is that Claire now keeps nagging me about wanting to buy the game on her Switch, which makes no sense, because she can just level and gear up her favourite characters on my Switch, where we play together, anyway. Ugh. Goodbye, extra 50 Quid for a re-release.

Hyrule Warriors is a great co-op experience. I can raid an enemy keep while Claire defends our base. She can hunt down a bunch of nasty summoners while I go after Gumblegorf or whatever. Combat is a piss-easy, button-mashing affair. You can give a controller to your fat aunt and ask her to sit on it and wiggle around for a bit and she'll fart out the most amazing combo-attacks, literally wiping out hundreds of enemies all at once. But you need to make decisions, come up with tactics on the spot, prioritize, that sort of thing. Basically, if you're an idiot like me, play with a friend to split the workload or you'll probably feel a bit suffocated by your responsibilities.

Beating up the same enemy hero together is rather satisfying, as well.
We haven't even touched the game's adventure mode, yet, where you can unlock 196 or so costumes, 120ish weapons, another dozen or so additional playable characters and customizable fairies, which can be fed and dressed and all sorts of weird creepy shit I'm gonna leave to Claire, because I don't want to do this. So, if you're the kind of person, who likes to sink hundreds, if not a thousand hours into a single game, this one's definitely for you.
I'm having fun. And now I know a whole bunch of characters from all sorts of Zelda games, as well as remixed theme music and other stuff real fans probably appreciate a lot more than I possibly could. Also, fuck Toon Link.

All praise aside, though - pull your finger out, Nintendo! Charging money for your online service, just because everybody else is doing it, sucks. Enabling cloud saves only as a paid feature sucks even harder. I don't care that it's a relatively small amount of money for a yearly subscription. Something as essential as cloud saving on a portable device, which is prone to damage and theft, simply shouldn't be a paid-only service! And no, adding a bunch of shitty old NES games to the package doesn't justify the price tag. And can we please have some quality control, before more broken, unplayable, hideous shit like Firefighters - The Simulation makes its way to the eShop? No virtual console, but ancient NeoGeo and PS2-era games for up to a tenner a pop, what the fuck? And let's not even get into the hardware exploit, which allows people to run all sorts of homebrew and emulators on their consoles right now, which can only be fixed by a hardware revision, just one year after the console was launched.

Funnily enough, one game that keeps me coming back is still Pokkén Tournament DX. It's the Pokémon fighting game, which I assume attracts toddlers more than anything else, judging by how people play online. Here's the thing, though - the netcode is excellent, I rarely get noticeable lag, there is no input lag whatsoever, opponents are found within 10 seconds or less at all times and the amount of rage-quitting is minimal in ranked matches. How the FUCK can a Pokémon-brawler for kids pull this off, while the online experience in Capcom's Street Fighter V is still such a pile of steaming raw turd?

I am god in a world of toddlers, who suck at videogames.
And you know what? Nuking the absolute shit out of people with a squeaky, annoyingly girly character, who shoots hearts and rainbows and crap, is immensely satisfying. Playing this game makes me grin like the total idiot I am ♥

Freitag, 27. April 2018

New Project

I know, I know, the blog has been incredibly quiet as of late. I'm still alive and I'm working on something big. Bunch of entries. Potentially life-changing. But not gonna publish them until I'm 100% sure it's working out. Stay tuned, mysterious 100 or so strangers who read my shit on a regular basis.

Donnerstag, 29. März 2018

So I helped write a trailer...

Dunno if yall heard about Pathfinder: Kingmaker, but I'm the game's community manager and I contribute bits of text here and there like much of what's said in the the voiceover here.

Mittwoch, 21. März 2018

My Glacial Progress In The Path Of Exile Endgame

There is no game I've put more hours into than Path of Exile. I've been there since the beta, played the game when it only consisted of three acts, and I'm still playing today's version with its ten story chapters and a weird Pokémon league. At this point you'd think I'm a hardcore veteran, who has seen, done and achieved absolutely everything. Instead, I'm still leveling my very first character in a masochistic relationship with one of the hardest games I've ever played...

Once upon a time there was an early beta of Path of Exile. January 2013. You could play cool characters like the brawny, hulking marauder or the agile, wisecracking duelist. I tried those for a bit and enjoyed them, because they worked more or less the way I expected. Then I noticed the comically oversized skill tree and the skill gem system and realized that, basically, every character can learn to use every skill there is, so I immediately wanted to do something silly and exotic, maybe even break the game a little. So I rolled a witch and thought, you know what, let's have her dual-wield claws and rip enemies to shreds in melee combat. Because throwing fireballs and lightning just seemed so boringly obvious for a witch.

Then came the zombies.
Of course the game didn't care about my plans and just dropped me a "summon zombie" skill during my first minutes of witch gameplay. Turn a corpse into an undead minion that fights your enemies for you. A couple hours later I was surrounded by pet zombies, skeletons and spectres, all of which came from the repurposed corpses of my enemies. Some more hours after that and I had raised my character's strength some more. I was now rocking heavy armor and shield-charged into hordes of enemies, pummeling anyone into the ground who wasn't getting torn to shreds by my undead minions. It was the coolest thing I had ever done in a hacky, slashy action RPG.

I immediately fell in love with PoE's skill system. Slap a fire damage support gem on those zombies - boom! Fire zombies! Skeleton minions with a nasty triple attack. Ghost wizards, who could be upgraded to shoot five fireballs at once instead of just one. Every skill, spell, special attack and minion could be customized and upgraded in fun and exciting ways! Okay, I definitely wasn't breaking the game or doing anything super exotic, but being a heavy warrior-type with tons of undead pets was still incredibly cool.

I added more and more minions over the years.

Back then the game pretty much ended after three acts. You killed the guy who got you exiled, he utters some ominous words as he kicks the bucket, then you could do it all over again on the higher difficulty levels. And that was fine. PoE felt about as "long" as Diablo 2 and was heavily inspired by it. I didn't feel like anything was missing, I played it on all difficulties and ultimately stopped again, because I had seen it all. 

Then came a new fourth story chapter. And then endgame maps. Literal maps. They dropped as items in high level content, then you could use them to enter deadly monster-infested areas, which were more difficult than the regular story bits, but also rewarded you with more experience and better loot. That stuff was fun, but also prohibitively difficult. Sure, endgame was now a thing. But basically, they could have slapped a sign right over the entrance. "You must be this meta to play." Anything but the most ideal (or broken) builds would just perish. And receive a harsh 10% experience penalty on death.
And thus began the grind.
I didn't want to start over with a "meta" build. I didn't want to spend all day trading for "best in slot" items. I started to grind out levels. Went from level 60 to 70. From 70 to 80. And started completing endgame maps. But PoE is deceptive with this stuff. You have a good run, then another, you feel that you've finally overcome that brick wall, that annoying progress-stopper, only to get curb-stomped by another pack of elite baddies or a particularly nasty boss. And with one quick death, all the progress you've been gaining that day is wiped out. And that's because I'm too much of a pussy to play hardcore, where death means death. That way, you lose everything.

Then came the ascendancy classes. Upgrades to all playable characters, which allowed them to specialize in completely new ways. Turn your ranger into a survivalist, who draws her powers from healing potions, of all things. Upgrade your duelist into a hulking slayer, who stays alive by draining the life from his enemies. And of course one of the specializations for the witch was necromancy, so I knew where I was headed. There was just one problem: Izaro's Labyrinth.

Welcome to being completely fucked.
Imagine a labyrinth, where you have to fight your way through room after room after room, trying to find the correct path to the final boss. Choosing the wrong path will lead to dead ends or a super nasty optional boss. The place is also full of traps. Floor-spikes shooting out of the ground to impale you, floor panels heating up to burn you to a crisp, gigantic swinging blades swinging to chop you to bits and all that sort of thing. Of course, the place is also crawling with some super high level monsters. If you die, teleport home or disconnect, you have to start over from the very beginning. And you must complete it in order to choose your ascendandy class. In fact, if you want to get the maximum amount of ascendancy points to full utilize the powers of your new class, you most complete the labyrinth not once, not twice, but four freaking times!

Until this day, the labyrinth is still the most divisive content in PoE. Because suddenly it's no longer about killing monsters. About having a good build. It's about timing, being able to read and avoid the traps and about having a decent enough connection, that doesn't kick you out while you're only halfway there. Super. So now I was spending all of my time completing the normal, hard and super-hard labyrinth versions. I have yet to complete the "uber" or "endgame" labyrinth, because I'm currently 80% into my level and I don't want to reset my experience to zero by repeatedly dying down there. I'll get my level up, then finish the highest difficulty setting once and for all. I hope.

Right after I'm done with the story, which suddenly contains more than twice as many chapters as before.
After inroducing ascendancy classes, the developers came out with a huuuuufuckingge update, which raised the previous four story chapters to a whopping ten. The game was suddenly twice as big and you could easily hit level 70 just by completing the story. Making progress actually became easier! Meanwhile, the Shaper, the final boss for the game's hilariously difficult endgame map system, received an overhaul and was now battling a new entity, The Elder, over map control, resulting in all sorts of deadly new monsters and mechanics randomly appearing all over the maps. So on the one hand it got a lot easier to get to the endgame, characters could become stronger than ever before and the challenges just got a whole lot more... um, challenging.

For over a half decade now, I've been playing the same witch, tweaking, editing and dicking around with her build. I'm finally using dual claws like I planned to back in 2013. Progress is so ridiculously slow, gaining a level-up at this point can take me anywhere between 5 days and a whole week of extensive play, depending on how many times I die. There are people, who grind their way from zero to the level-cap in a matter of days, especially when using the most popular builds and powerful items, while I'm crawling along at the pace of a snail with my own gear and build. Then there are people who absolutely lose their shit over the fact that, for the vast majority of players who make it this far at all, the game basically stops at level 90. Because at that point you get so little experience when you level up, the only way to realistically level up is to play content at such a high difficulty, that most less than perfect builds will be absolutely crushed, causing them to lose much more progress per death than what they could possibly ever hope to gain.

Maybe I should go back to Dark Souls. That was nice and easy...
I should hate this game. And in a way, I do. I hate the pressure when I'm close to gaining a level. Knowing that I could fuck up at any moment, lose god knows how many hours worth of progress when I die. Worst case, I'll get furstrated, throw myself at whatever killed me to get revenge and just die again. And again. Ruin everything. 
But you know... it feels pretty damn rewarding. You hit this roadblock, this brickwall, a point where you feel like you cannot possibly get any further. You have the ideal build, the best gear, you can't possibly get past this boss or that map. And then you sleep over it. Come up with new ideas. Change some stuff around. And what do you know, that seemingly impossible part of the game suddenly isn't so bad. Until you crash and burn at the next, more difficult obstacle. It's a fucking chore. It's insanely punishing. It's like a horrible job that nobody even pays you for. And I keep coming back.

I hate the experience penalty. I hate the stupidly oversized skill-tree, which is a dumb, fucking gimmick that should have been removed and consolidated into something more useful years ago. I hate having to re-think my build over and over, having to adjust to a game, that only gets more difficult and every harder to beat as time progresses. And yet, I hope it's never going to change. I never hated a game the way I hate Path of Exile. And I'm so fucking hooked, it's not even funny.


Montag, 5. März 2018

Switch SNES Controllers And Kirby

If you happen to own games like Mario Kart or the stupidly awesome upcoming Kirby game on the Switch, then there's really no such thing as having too many controllers. Unfortunately, a pair of Joycons costs about as much as three (!) official wireless Xbox 360 controllers. So why not spend your money on something less overpriced than a Joycon, which looks eleventy times more awesome and doesn't feel like total ass? Like this classy as fuck SNES-Controller for the Switch.

Alright, alright. Obviously, if you've never used an original SNES controller, then this probably won't do it for you. This thing looks and feels as close as the real deal as it gets if you add analog thumbsticks and an extra pair of L/R buttons, as well as HD rumble. So it's a bit heavier than a proper SNES controller, the buttons and D-pad have been moved ever so slightly to make room for the sticks and it probably won't feel as good in your hands as a Switch pro controller. Or any modern controller shaped like PS4/Xbox Controllers, really, because we didn't care for fancy-shmancy ergonomic design in the 90s.

Did I already mention that Kirby is stupidly awesome, though?
If you do get the nostalgic feels for this neat little toy, though, then you can also use it on a Mac, PC (D-Input and X-Input) and just about any device that recognizes Bluetooth controllers. PC-Users can also hook it up via USB. It takes some getting used to, but I'm using it for Street Fighter V, emulators and even stuff like Dark Souls and GTA. Not sure that's really something you'll want to do for any extended amount of time, but it's doable once you get used to the messed-up button prompts. Stupid backwards Nintendo face buttons!

The rumble is fine, if a bit noisy in some games. It even has a gyro sensor, so you can move the controller around for motion controls in games like Splatoon 2, Breath of the Wild, Resident Evil, Doom and so forth.

In case I haven't mentioned it yet, there's a new Kirby game coming to the Switch and it oozes quality. It looks absolutely amazing with bright colours and awesome landscapes and the typical shiny, happy Kirby visuals. Everything is incredibly detailed - there's a free demo available, which starts in a forest that is full of flowers and grass you can cut with a sword Zelda-style. There's the obligatory boss tree at the end, but this time around you see the shadows of its leaves dancing in the background. Kirby travels with up to three AI or player-controlled companions, who can combine their abilities in fun ways. If Kirby wields a sword, you can use one of your companion's powers to freeze the blade or set it on fire for extra damage. If you turn Kirby into a rock, a friend with ice powers can freeze him over for a special curling attack, sliding Kirby across the stage and into enemies and obstacles.
Art style trumps sheer graphical horsepower everytime.
What I've heard from the orchestral soundtrack so far was really great and the game is just an absolute blast to play. I've never been the world's biggest Kirby fan, but the demo absolutely blew me away and I can't wait to play the full version. Nintendo are really knocking it out of the park with their Switch releases and while Kirby may not attract the same large crowd Mario or Link could reel in, I feel this may be another heavy hitter on the system.

The Switch is completely changing the way I play videogames these days. On my PC, if at all possible, I'll run a game in 1440p or even 4k, if playable. Games like Doom or Warframe run great in 4K and a semi-decent rig can handle a maxed-out GTA V in 1440p just fine. Games look more and more realistic, up to a point where some screenshots almost look like photographs. 

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
While there's a bunch of players out there, who will lower each and every detail to the absolute minimum to keep their FPS in the triple digits, I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum. I will max that shit out for best possible image quality, even if it means that I'll occasionally dip down from 60 FPS to the high 40s. And then there's the Switch, which gives you the worst of both worlds - low details and resolution and low FPS. Yay!

It's the weirdest thing. On a PC it simply annoys me if I don't max out the settings, because I always feel like I'm missing out. The game doesn't look as good as it could. I'm not using all the options. I'm not getting the full experience. In one extreme case, this obsession caused me to destroy some hardware. It was when Everquest 2 came out and had some of the most realistic, but also the most demanding real-time shadows I had ever seen in any game. I absolutely had to activate this stuff, even though no computer could seriously run this game with everything cranked up back in 2004. It didn't take long for my Radeon 9700 pro to overheat and die for good. And that thing was an absolute powerhouse back in its day! 

Like most games that looked "realistic" at release, it has aged like shit.
And then there's the Switch. I'm playing L.A. Noire with crappy draw distance and low resolution textures on there. I'm playing Doom 2016, which only ever manages to maintain 720p when I stand perfectly still and there are no enemies around. Once the action starts, the resolution and framerate will drop and if the game has to stop loading a bunch of textures for a while to keep things running, then so be it. It's not anywhere near as dreadful as it sounds, but in terms of visuals and performance, it's simply the weakest version of Doom on any platform.

I can't hear your bitching over the sound of my chainsaw.
With a remastered version of Dark Souls coming out in May on multiple platforms, I have no doubt that the Switch version is going to be the least impressive in terms of visuals and performance and I can't wait to get my hands on it. It's amazing how easy it is to tolerate drawbacks and adjustments when you add "...and you can play it whilst taking a dump" to the decription of a game.

I find it absolutely hilarious. Microsoft released the most powerful console ever. Performance-wise, the PS4 Pro isn't that far behind. These puppies allow people to experience games like Destiny 2 in ultra high definition. Sure, people are so tired of Bungie's anti-consumer bullshit and microtransactions that nobody really even wants to play Destiny 2 anymore, but if you want to get ripped off by Activision in 4K, then there's your chance. Mind you, all three systems are selling like crazy, with the PS4 outperforming the Switch. But it's amazing to see Nintendo's little Hybrid doing so well, actually selling more units than Microsoft and all, what with its weak hardware and everything.

I'm about to literally bite this guy's head off. On a Nintendo console.
The only thing that slightly worries me is some of the garbage in the eShop right now. Generally, Nintendo has decent quality control and offers a nice mix of platform exclusives, mainstream AAA titles and indie games. But there are some awful mobile games crawling over to the Switch. The situation isn't Life of Black Tiger levels of awful. It sure as fuck isn't Steam asset flip garbage levels of awful. But seeing terrible, low quality mobile games like Gear Club with PlayStation2-era visuals, terrible controls and non-existent driving physics with a AAA-pricetag, I get a bit worried. In its defense, the game is actually playable (if you can get used to the terrible controls), but it re-uses the exact same assets over and over again in every single race, the landscapes never change, the game crashed on me several times and it's perfectly normal for the sound to glitch out every so often. Every race lasts 30-50 seconds, which is usually shorter than the amount of time you spend staring at the damn load screen.

These are issues I find tolerable in an otherwise functional title for 10 bucks. This game, however, costs 60 Dollars, which is completely unforgivable. For comparison, there's the equally shitty Super Toy Cars, which also features unimpressive visuals, re-uses the same tracks over and over again, features a cringeworthy garage band soundtrack and has no idea how physics work. And you can get it for about ten Dollars on the Switch. How garbage like Gear Club Unlimited managed to slip in there with such a stupidly high price tag is completely beyond me.

The Switch can do so much better than that!
There's other weird shit like Spot the Difference and Moorhuhn Castles & Knights (for 30 fucking Dollars!), where I can't help but wonder who this is even for. Not only is that shit ridiculously overpriced, but these are terrible mobile games on a device that plays Doom 2016. Granted, I'm more annoyed at some of the price tags than the actual quality of the games. Castles & Knights may just be yet another dumb Angry Birds clone, but for all intents and purposes it's complete and playable and at least resembles some sort of game. None of this is anywhere near as terrible as some of the garbage you get to buy in the PlayStation Store. I just hope that Nintendo can manage to keep it that way. A $60 Gear Club or a $30 Moorhuhn are easy enough to ignore, but let's not pile more and more shit on to the list of terrible, overpriced mobile conversions, please!

Game UK lists a Switch release of Pillars for Eternity 2. Fucking Dark Souls is coming to Switch. This console handles deep and complex titles for core gamers. I'm not sure shovelling dumbass one-click gameplay mobile phone garbage onto the Switch is a great idea. Besides, if you're really crazy about the next Angry Birds clone or some variation of Candy Crush, then you probably play that shit on your phone, anyway. You're not gonna buy a Switch for that shit. So let's not get too insane with all the mobile game garbage on there, mkay?

Mittwoch, 28. Februar 2018

Doom On Switch Makes Me a Happy Console Peasant

Rend and Tear. On the shitter.
I love Doom. I watched my old man play the original Doom way back when I was a kid and it was the scariest shit, ever. The gore, the screams, the dark corridors with the flashing lights. Since then I played it on the PC, the Gameboy Advance, PSP, 3DS and god knows how many other consoles, phones and other such devices. Heck, the game has been ported to ATMs and even a car.

When the 2016 version of Doom came out, I was really happy with it. Sure, I absolutely don't care for the platforming bits, the game was juuust a little bit too long for me towards the end and the whole corridors with tiny puzzles followed by a monster arena followed by more corridors etc. thing got a little repetitive after a while. It's still a fantastic game with incredible artwork and super fast-paced gameplay. And then they released that exact same game on the Nintendo Switch. What the fuck.

Like the real thing, but blurrier.
I didn't care for the Switch version much, because I prefer playing shooters with a mouse and keyboard. The PC version also runs really well in 4K, while the Switch version barely maintains 720p at 30fps. Reviews mentioned frame drops and the occasional awful texture, so I gave this one a hard pass. But then they added motion controls. Motion controls change everything.

I absolutely love playing Resident Evil: Revelations (2) on the Switch, because with a bit of practice the game's motion controls feel just as accurate and comfortable as playing with a mouse. In fact, I think they're a bit more immersive, because aiming and pulling the trigger on the joycon just feels a bit better than clicking my rodent. There's something immensely satisfying about aiming at a zombie's head and blowing his head off using motion controls. Call me crazy, but I might actually enjoy this playstyle even more than my mouse and keyboard.

And HD rumble really makes you feel the chainsaw as it goes through your enemies.
Of course I had to take a look at Doom on the Switch now. It also helps that the game's most recent update has upped the average FPS to 27.6 - sure, this sounds like a bit of a joke when compared to other platforms, but we're talking about a portable device here. If I can play Doom on the go, chilling on the sofa while Claire watches her soap operas, waiting for food in the pub or whilst keeping Claire company at work, then I'll gladly take those 27 FPS without bitching.

The campaign runs just as I remember it from the PC version. I didn't notice any dramatic hiccups. The textures looked decent enough, though I didn't get an awful lot of time to stand still and appreciate every wall, floor and ceiling whilst getting beat up by an angry army of pissed-off hellspawn. The game is blurry as fuck, alright. I play most games in 1440p or 4K where possible, so 720p is a bit of a step down. The fact that Doom makes aggressive use of dynamic resolution for the sake of performance doesn't help here. It rarely hits the 720p mark and you can tell. It looks like the real thing, but Doomguy didn't put his glasses on.

In some situations I'm almost grateful for a little less detail.
There's no way around it - if you have a decent enough PC or any other current-gen console, then there's really no need for the Switch version. That is, unless you like the idea of playing Doom on the go, which I do. And there is another reason why I'm enjoying Doom on the Switch so much, even though I already had it for PC: Multiplayer.

Playing multiplayer in the PC version of Doom means cheaters. Way too many fucking cheaters everywhere. And no anticheat measures or a report function. When it comes to mainstream FPS titles, the PC as a platform tends to be a bit of an afterthought, which simply doesn't get a lot of love. The vast majority of players are on consoles. Customer support and cheat detection cost money, so fuck that. Doom is hardly the only game with that problem - just look at any CoD game, ever. Some master race.

Chainsaw the bastards!
But while every idiot can fire up Cheatengine or subscribe to some fine russian hacks on PC, it's a different story on the Switch. I used to bump into players who would headshot me from every angle, across the entire map, never needing to reload, never running out of health. Things seem a lot less extreme now that I play on Nintendo's hybrid console.

Though I can't carry an entire terrible team all by myself.
Sure - just like the campaign, multiplayer is blurry, the resolution is all over the place and in really intense matches the sound tends to glitch out for some reason. But the framerate is reasonably stable even in matches with 12 players, demons, BFGs and all that sort of thing. And damn is it fun to play with motion controls! I won't lie - it's a lot harder than Resident Evil, because it's just more difficult to keep track of a bunch of bouncy human players than it is to keep your eye on some shuffling AI zombies. I'm gonna have to practice a lot more until this playstyle will start to feel as natural and easy as using a mouse, but I'm getting there. I couldn't get myself to play an FPS using only a controller, but motion controls are fine. I don't feel like I'm gimping myself.

My main problem is getting used to looking around and rotating with the right analog stick, while adjusting my aim with motion controls. Keeping the two separate is difficult and requires some getting used to. Though just like Resident Evil, it's incredibly satisfying to aim your shotgun at somebody, to pull the trigger and blow them to bits.

Sneaking up on a player to rip their head off is also fun. The game is blurry and it's difficult to tell that's what happened. You had to be there.
If you always hated Doom 2016's multiplayer, then the lack of cheaters alone won't make you love it on the Switch. The game still uses loadouts and CoD-style unlocks and the most popular game mode is still TDM. But if you're just looking for some dumb, mindless fun, over the top gore and violence and a refreshingly non-toxic multiplayer environment, then the Switch version might just be the best place to look. Because for better or worse, there's no voice chat, there sure as fuck is no text chat and taunts don't get much more offensive than someone doing the Carlton Dance. I'm almost sad there are no teenagers informing me about my mother's sexual antics.

I've put quite a few hours into Doom's multiplayer mode and I'm not going to quit anytime soon. The campaign is still great fun and I'm sure I'll appreciate having it with me when I have to go to London and Indianapolis for work this year. In the meanwhile, however, I might actually spend more time playing multiplayer than playing the campaign. I wasn't expecting to have so much fun with it, but it was absolutely worth it. Rend and Tear!