Saturday, 5 September 2020

Surgeon Simulator 2 Review – A Passing Grade

The original Surgeon Simulator is an interesting thing to discuss. Despite its initially limited scope from the outset, it expands into some decent modes with varying objectives. The controls were difficult to get a grasp on but it played into the overall goofiness of the title to provide a fun experience.

Perhaps because Bossa Studios wanted to expand on that "limited scope" or simply wanted to evolve the experience further, Surgeon Simulator 2 is bigger, busier and now it's own full-fledged universe with a story. While the developer can be commended for expanding a concept like this on such a scale, the execution in Surgeon Simulator 2 leaves much to be desired.

"There's a fair bit of intrigue and while I could have stood for the game to slow burn things a bit more, it's a welcome bit of mystery."

The core experience has been diversified into three major game modes – Story, Create and Discover. The Story mode sees you as a new trainee in a strange hospital, one that's shoddily constructed but aims to help anyone become a surgeon. You're guided by Dr. Pamela but it quickly becomes apparent that things aren't what they seem.

And when I say "quickly", I mean a literal voice in the vents that tells you things aren't what they seem. It's almost Portal-like in its set-up with the player being dropped into all these different chambers while a bigger, seemingly more nefarious scheme is being hatched in the background. There's a fair bit of intrigue and while I could have stood for the game to slow burn things a bit more, it's a welcome dash of mystery.

Bob returns and you're tasked with conducting different operations on him, whether it's severing an arm, removing a lung or popping off his entire head, all while ensuring he doesn't bleed out. While you could simply rip off an organ or body part barehanded, it's better to use a medical saw or scalpel to reduce the amount of blood lost. Depositing limbs and organs into special trays will send replacement parts to you. You'll be managing your tools and Bob's blood loss but eventually operations will descend into trying to access trays and replacement limbs from locked off areas.

Unfortunately, this design gets repetitive as things go along. On the one hand, I can appreciate how the setting plays into different objectives. It's a hospital in disarray, that too with strange things going on, so it makes sense that certain doors would be locked or that you'd need to locate a medical scanner before commencing an operation. This also explains the sheer number of objects and trash strewn about, which makes locating tools a bit of a task. However, these objectives become extremely one-note over time.

Surgeon Simulator 2_03

"It's almost kind of waste though – for as aesthetically pleasing as the levels look, the core gameplay doesn't really leverage them to full effect."

Things really start to go down hill when it comes to the controls. Much like the original, your hand is the main controlling entity – you can rotate it, raise it, lower it, grasp objects, extend and withdraw the arm, and so on. You don't have individual control of fingers though – one's grip is a relegated to a single left mouse click. This feeds into existing issues when it comes to grasping items. You're managing the orientation of your hand while picking something up, which could be wrong because your arm isn't extended enough. Or maybe you have just the right hand position and arm length but the object won't be grasped without some trial and error. Expect to be annoyed by this fairly quickly.

Sometimes, you might lose track of which mouse direction is the correct orientation, which requires some fiddling to fix. It also doesn't help that a lot of the first game's nuance is seemingly absent. Operations still employ some manner of precision when it comes to chopping off limbs but have otherwise been extremely streamlined. There's not much by way of gentle incisions – just pick up a scalpel, shove it into Bob's chest and voila, you've got the heart or lung or whatever. The real challenge is ensuring the scalpel is just within the correct length of grasping and then oriented properly before extraction. It's less interesting than it sounds and there isn't much variety to the actual operations outside of replacing limbs and organs.

Unlike the previous game, you're not just a hand operating on a patient. You're a fully fledged person who walks around, jumping on things and picking up objects. For how imaginative the setting is, you're not really doing much with the environment outside of picking up stuff, opening doors or pushing open grates.

I get that Bossa Studios isn't trying to make the next Trauma Center but there must be better ways to spice up the gameplay, especially when the operations themselves are fairly typical. Littering the environment with random junk that gets in the way isn't a good alternative either, though I do appreciate just the details in levels. It's almost kind of waste though – for as aesthetically pleasing as things look, the core gameplay doesn't really leverage them to full effect.

Surgeon Simulator 2_04

"If I had to sum up Surgeon Simulator 2 in one word, it would be "passable.""

Perhaps this is just the single-player experience talking and Surgeon Simulator 2 is a lot better suited for co-op. Maybe four friends would have an uproarious time when it comes to managing an operation, though again, there's not a whole lot to really manage. One would think that the Discover mode with its selection of user-created levels would have something interesting to offer and to be fair, some of the levels are interesting. There's a custom playlist queue for selecting different levels and playing them, one after the other, and Quick Play for hopping into a quick match with other players.

Though it's early days yet, there's a decent amount of user-created content. Granted, these aren't the most complex levels. One sees the player standing on a suitcase and using it to fly via some convoluted instructions. Another tried to recreate the original Surgeon Simulator and was painful to manage, to say the least. The Bossa Levels are fairly limited right now and encompass such gems as "flipping the bottle", which is not very fun alone. Again, we'll see how things fare down the line but in terms of showcasing what the creation suite is capable of – which seems to be a lot, as per pre-launch trailers – it's a good start, if nothing else.

Of course, it's worth addressing the XP system and daily challenges, which go towards leveling the battle pass-like system of cosmetic unlocks. Oddly enough, while it's possible to unlock cosmetics in the Story Mode by completing different objectives (which are usually time or blood loss-related), XP is seemingly earned only from Quick Play matches, rating levels and completing objectives in multiplayer. All of the Daily Challenges are also tied to multiplayer. Still, for those who like fiddling with the customization – and there are quite a few cosmetic options available – you can expect a good amount of stuff to unlock.

Surgeon Simulator 2_05

"Aesthetically, it looks nice though performance does slightly chug at times, and the voice acting is fairly well done."

If I had to sum up Surgeon Simulator 2 in one word, it would be "passable." It's hard to really recommended this to fans of the original, given how much has been simplified, but perhaps there are some players seeking a goofy, story-driven take on the formula. Aesthetically, it looks nice though performance does slightly chug at times, and the voice acting is fairly well done. Even the music is nice despite trying a little too hard to sound goofy at times. The controls are troublesome at best and downright irritating at worst but combining them with the samey objectives and repetitive nature of operations is what really drags the experience down.

While this is most definitely a "complete" package compared to its predecessor, the core gameplay loop really feels like it needed more time, more nuance and more interesting ways to leverage the interesting setting.

This game was reviewed on PC.


Gotham Knights Will Have 5 Neighborhoods And Citizens On Living, Ongoing Schedule

Gotham Knights_02

We waited for a long time for WB Montreal to unveil their Batman game, which made it all the more a surprise when the game ended up being the Batman-less Gotham Knights. The game will bring about a new self-contained story that will see many of Batman's wards come into their own against the dangers of Gotham. And Gotham will be quite alive this go around.

If you recall the later Arkham titles, especially Arkham Knight, the city of Gotham was a barren one. It seems the aim for Gotham Knights is to make it bigger and more populated. As revealed via the official PlayStation blog, the game will feature five boroughs that house the various factions you'll have to contend with.

As mentioned before, part of the aim of the game is to have Gotham feel like a living, breathing ecosystem, and one way is that the citizens will have their own unique schedules in a more populated city. The example given is that at certain times traffic will be more congested, meaning it may take you longer to reach a destination as you have to navigate rush hour.

Gotham Knights will release in 2021 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One and PC.


Xbox Series X Will Have Full DX12_2 Support

xbox series x logo

Microsoft was the first to unveil their next generation console, the Xbox Series X. It's looking to be quite something, and like all new generations comes with many promises of new power and new features. Today, we got confirmation of some of those new features with full support from its GPU of DX12_2.

Via his official Twitter, Director of Program Management at Team Xbox, Jason Ronald, was asked if the Xbox Series X had support for the new tech. The system was suspiciously absent from the dev blog announcing the DirectX12_2. But he did confirm that it did, in fact, have full support of all the hardware features. That means it has better compatibility with PC API as well as potential improved features relating to raytracing, mesh shaders,  variable rate shading, and more. You can get a better idea at the announcement blog through here.

The Xbox Series X is set to launch this November.

dx12_2_XboxSeriesX


Madden NFL 21 Boasts Over 460,000 Seasons Already Completed

madden nfl 21

The time to play with the virtual pigskin is once again here with Madden NFL 21. The annual sports title once again brings you America's favorite sport as real sports are still in a strange place among our current COVID-infested hell. One criticism of these types of games is always the lack of innovation, something understandable considering the quick turnaround they must have. But it seems this year's entry has struck a negative chord with many, being reviewed lower than usual, with online user scores being brutal (we were a bit kinder on the game, though there's definitely some stagnation). But it doesn't seem to have had any real impact, as many are still playing the game.

The official Twitter posted some stats, bragging that already over 460K seasons have been played. There's a variety of other things here such as 49%+ player engagement vs last year's entry, as well as favorite quarterbacks and team. Between being the only official NFL game in town, plus the lack of real American football on TV, seems no amount of bad feelings could slow this one down.

Madden NFL 21 is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, and will come to the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The game is also set to have some minor changes to franchise mode come November, which you can read more about through here.


The Witcher 3 On Switch Helped Drive CD Projekt RED's Revenue Up 70% For First Half Of 2020

witcher 3 switch

No one was entirely sure what to think when it was announced that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt would be ported to the Nintendo Switch. The game had always been something of a technical achievement, even back when the current generation of consoles were fresh on the market. But ultimately, CDPR and Saber Interactive managed to do it, and it seems the port paid off big.

As reported by PC Games Insider, CD Projekt RED announced that for the first half of 2020 their revenue increased by an incredible 70% year over year. That translates to zł364m ($97m) in revenue sales, with profit increasing to zł147m ($39.2m). The key driver of this was The Witcher 3 port on Switch. You can see a graph of the spike below. While that was the biggest driver, there was also the new mobile ports of GWENT as well as Thronebreaker also being brought to the Switch.

The Witcher 3 was recently announced to also be coming to the PS5 and Xbox Series X as well, so it's bound to be the game that keeps on giving, and we know that a fourth Witcher is coming at some point even if it won't be called The Witcher 4.

The Witcher 3 Switch bump


The PS5's Library Might Turn Out to be the Biggest and Most Diverse in PlayStation History

It's usually only at the tail end of a console generation where you can really get a solid feel for how that console's library turned out. Usually, the goal of every console's library is to have something for everyone. From driving games for racing fans, first person shooters, RPGs, fighting games, and everything in between. All the major genres, as well as as many shades of them as possible, should ideally be represented as much as possible. In fact, failing to have a vibrant, diverse library can often be the lead contributing factor leading to a console's life-span being cut short. Just look at the Atari Jaguar, 3DO, and other platforms that failed to really get any traction. Odds are, problems with their libraries at least in-part lead to their untimely demise.

On the flip side of that, you have the PlayStation ecosystem, which has, for the most part, successfully delivered exemplary titles and great libraries for all of their systems. Even their weakest example of this, the PlayStation Vita, isn't too bad in this regard. It shouldn't be much of a surprise to see that the PlayStation 4 also did a great job with keeping as many types of gamers as possible happy all at once. It was not by totally copying the approach to the PS3 though.

The PS4 definitely shook things up a bit for its library from what was offered on the PS3. A more friendly environment for indie developers, more of an emphasis on their top-tier triple-A studios, and special attention being paid to the third-person action adventure genre are all things that make the PS4 stand apart from the PS3 at least in terms of game selection. While it is true that both consoles are flush with pretty much all types of games, there was definitely more of a concentrated push in those specific directions. As such, the upcoming PlayStation 5 seems determined to ride the wave of the success the PS4 had with those ideas, but it also might be shaking things up again with some noticeable changes.

As the PS4 certainly did unearth quite a lot of interest in the action adventure genre, we can certainly expect that trend to continue. While Naughty Dog probably won't be the ones to make the next Uncharted game, it's definitely going to be a thing, eventually. In fact, I'd be surprised if it wasn't already being worked on. At a more macro level, though, there's no denying the success of the big third person action adventure games on PS4. Horizon, Spider-Man, God of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Ratchet & Clank, and The Last of Us Part 2 all had extremely good showings both critically and commercially. Even games that everyone didn't fall in love with like the The Order: 1886 and Days Gone still did pretty well, generally speaking.

We would be crazy to think that all of these major PS4 hits aren't candidates to be long-running franchises. In fact, we already know many of them are getting sequels. Knowing that, we can easily assume that the trend of these big-budget, heavily-marketed, high-production value marquee titles will continue. Perhaps at an exponential rate. One blind spot of the PS4 that did seem to emerge about half-way through the generation, was the sheer amount of time in-between these releases. Looking back on all of them now it might seem there were plenty of them, but keep in mind this was over a seven-year period. There were months and months between them many times, and it would make a lot of sense for Sony to look into rectifying that.

There's a lot of room between flooding the market, and given how PlayStation rolled out their first-party exclusives, and I think Sony will probably take a couple of major steps toward keeping a steadier, meatier stream of these sorts of games in the next generation. As games are taking longer and longer to develop, this will likely be addressed through additional studio acquisitions, like the fairly recent addition of Insomniac to the PlayStation family. The fact that Microsoft will soon be seeing the fruits of their acquisition spree from a couple years ago, also probably adds fuel to the fire under Sony to keep ahead of them in this area. This is a good thing for those of us who stick around on PlayStation for those big exclusive games.

One thing that Sony's first party studios have shown us over the last decade or so, is that they don't tend to like doing the exact same thing over and over to no end. Guerrilla moved on from the gritty shooters of Killzone to the ridiculously colorful world of Horizon, Naughty Dog moved on from mascot platformers to more grounded action adventures, and Sucker Punch moved on from Sly, to inFamous, to Feudal Japan. These teams are many things, but stagnant is not one of them. In light of that, I think we're going to see a little more experimentation from these studios on the PS5 than we saw on the PS4. While the third-person action adventure games are certainly going to remain a big part of PlayStations variety, I think we are likely to see more variety here this time around.

Will Naughty Dog make a first person RPG? Will Guerrilla end up making a multiplayer-focused SOCOM game? I can't say at this point for sure, but we are likely going to see a few rolls of the dice here and there this time around. Another reason I suspect this is because the PlayStation brand is in a much safer place now than it was at the dawn of the PS4. Back in 2013, PlayStation had barely cobbled together a razor thin lead over Microsoft, and they probably knew that Nintendo was going to come out swinging with something revolutionary in a few years. It was time to play it safe. It was time to find out exactly what developers and gamers wanted, and just do their damndest to supply as much of that as possible. With the success of The Last of Us, Assassin's Creed, and the like, it was obvious that large, sprawling action adventure games were what was in at the time, and so plans were put in place to give us over half a decade of them.

the last of us part 2

But that's not where we are now. Sony, on top of raking in record profits multiple years in a row, has also cut costs by dropping their laptop division, simplifying their TV department, and other decisions that have put them in a very comfortable position financially. If there's ever a time to experiment and try out new things, it's now, when calculated risks are least offensive, and occasional failures are most bearable. It's somewhat similar to where Sony was at the tail-end of the PS2, which was a nice time as we saw lots of interesting experimental games end up on the PS3 and Vita as a result. There's also the wild card of Japan Studio, who always seems to just do whatever they want. That's a studio we should all be very interested to hear from soon. They are completely unpredictable, and this is a perfect era for them to really stretch their legs.

With Guerrilla hiring more seasoned designers from the multiplayer world and PlayStation getting lots of new, interesting multiplayer games like Godfall and Destruction All-Stars on the PS5, it's also pretty apparent that Sony wants at least a couple big multiplayer hits in their ecosystem. This is something they've wanted for a long time, and have come pretty close with Killzone and SOCOM games, but never quite struck the level of paydirt that Microsoft did with Halo. I think it's safe to say you're going to see the biggest push from Sony, perhaps ever, to really get some major traction with a huge multiplayer title or two. So expect them to throw a lot of things at us in the coming years.

horizon forbidden west

Also, with less of a push for indie titles surrounding the PS5 than we saw around the PS4, we might end up getting less of them on Sony's newest console as well. Sony is likely more concerned with quality than quantity in that particular arena now, as many of the lower-tier indie games on PS4 did basically nothing for the platform other than gum up the store with games that didn't sell. You'll still have your Dead Cells, your Shovel Knights but you probably won't see nearly as many of those 3, 4, and 5-dollar games this time around.

With a greater focus on what worked about the last generation, and the ability to experiment that they currently have, we should definitely be ready for a very diverse library out of the PS5. As I stated, this is something that no PlayStation library is new to, but we may still see the greatest example of it yet on the PlayStation 5. There is plenty of evidence that PlayStation fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming decade.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


RIDE 4 Will Run at 60 FPS and "Up to 4K" on PS5

ride 4

Milestone's bike racing sim RIDE 4 will be coming to PC and current-gen consoles in less than a month from now, but like most other upcoming video games, it'll also be releasing on next-gen consoles. In a recently published update on the PlayStation Blog, Milestone producer Luigi Crocetta confirmed that RIDE 4 will be launching on the PS5 on January 21, 2020, and also detailed how the game will leverage the console's new hardware capabilities.

For starters, the game will run at 60 frames per second on the PS5, which it will be doing at a resolution of "up to" 4K (the wording of that might suggest that it'll be a dynamic resolution). Meanwhile, RIDE 4 will also use the PS5's SSD for not only "significantly reduced" loading times, but also "a better gameplay experience", with Crocetta writing, "The SSD will enable faster streaming of textures, allowing us to better immerse players in our environments while they roar around tracks at 300 km/h."

Meanwhile, like many other major upcoming releases for the PS5, RIDE 4 will also be using the DualSense's unique features. "Gas and brake levers will have their own resistance to transmit the same sensations as their real-life counterparts," Crocetta explained. "We are also leveraging haptic feedback to let players feel their vehicle's vibrations, just like when they ride on the streets."

RIDE 4 will be releasing for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 8.


Prince of Persia Remake to be Announced at Ubisoft Forward – Rumour

prince of persia the forgotten sands

A couple of weeks ago, a retailer listing popped up online for Prince of Persia remake– which, of course, was surprising because no such game has been announced by Ubisoft yet. Ordinarily, most people would have waved that away as being nothing, but not long after that listing went up, Bloomberg's Jason Schreier said that it was an accurate leak after all, and that the "surprise announcement" would be coming very soon.

With a second Ubisoft Forward digital showcase coming next week on September 10, the assumption has been that that's when this game – if it is indeed real – will be announced, and Schreier recently said that that will be the case. Speaking recently during the Triple Click podcast (at around the 27:00 mark, as spotted by Wccftech), Schreier mentioned that Ubisoft are planning on announcing the Prince of Persia remake during the Ubisoft Forward show.

Of course, until such time an official announcement is made, it's best to tread with caution, especially with a franchise that has been inactive for as long as Prince of Persia has been. That said, Schreier's track record with inside info speaks for itself, and Ubisoft have a terrible history with leaks, so there's probably something to this after all.

You can also expect an official reveal (or re-reveal) of Immortals Fenyx Rising (previously known as Gods and Monsters) at the Ubisoft Forward showcase. As per a recent leak, the game is due out this December.


Mafia: Definitive Edition Map Changes Detailed, Countryside Open From Start

mafia definitive edition

Hangar 13 has been doing some significant work with Mafia: Definitive Edition, implementing a new lighting engine, recreating cutscenes from the ground up and adding new story sequences. It's also spruced up the open world of Lost Heaven quite a bit. You can check out how it looks in motion here but some new details have been revealed in a recent blog post.

According to the developer, the geometry of Lost Heaven from the 2002 original has been used to create the Definitive Edition's version of the city. Some names have changed but locations like the airport, race track and so on are all here. Perhaps the most significant change is that the countryside can now be explored without having to play through the story first. There's also no loading screen when transitioning these areas.

Other changes include the city center having more high-rise buildings; Chinatown having more fitting architecture and better representation; modified topography; and much more. With the addition of motorcycles, there now side-alleys that can be used when avoiding the police. You can also expect certain objective locations to be changed to mix up the variety of areas and neighborhoods.

You can check out the Lost Heaven map for Mafia: Definitive Edition below. The game is out on September 25th for Xbox One, PS4, PC and Google Stadia.

Mafia Definitive Edition_Lost Heaven


Madden NFL 21 Gets First Details On Franchise Mode Update

madden nfl 21

The latest entry in the annual football series is here with Madden NFL 21, and well, the reception is what it is, I suppose. The game has been criticized for being an even more barebones effort than usual outside a few key exceptions, though some still found enjoyment in it. You can see our take on that through here. But EA has promised some changes would be coming, specifically to the Franchise mode. Now they've detailed what to expect.

In a post from the publisher, they broke down what they plan to add to the mode. It may not be exactly the overhaul some want, but you will be able to customize X-Factor and Superstar abilities as well as edit players in both offline and online modes. It will also return the ability to see important stats for other players, such as what team they played throughout their career, as well as tuning development trait regression to help keep players balanced.

Madden NFL 21 is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The update will come in November, most likely in time for the game's release on PS5 and Xbox Series X.


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