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Monday, 16 November 2020

Halo 4 Out Today on PC, Unlock Times Revealed

343 Industries' Halo 4 arrives for PC later today, available to those who purchased Halo: The Master Chief Collection. It brings a host of different improvements to the original, like 60 FPS, FOV sliders and crossplay, which will also apply to the Xbox Series X/S version. What time does it unlock though?

According to Microsoft, you can expect to play it at 10 AM PT. This translates to 1 PM EST, 6 PM BST and 5 AM AEST. Season 4 will also go live at the same time with new unlocks like Halo 3 and 4 armor skins so if you're on that grind, then you can jump into it quickly as possible.

Like previous titles on PC, Halo 4 has been having extensive betas and multiplayer flighting to ensure it's ready for release. With this release, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is now officially complete for PC, offering Halo 1 to 4, Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach in one stellar package. Halo 5: Guardians won't be added any time soon though, sadly.


Kena: Bridge of Spirits Still on Track for Q1 2021 Launch, Developer Confirms

kena bridge of spirits

Kena: Bridge of Spirits was originally scheduled as a PS5 launch title before it got delayed into Q1 2021. Recent developments suggested that the game may have been pushed even further back, with its release window on the official PS5 webpage being listed as Q4 2021. It seems, however, that that was simply an error.

Taking to Twitter via the game's official page, developer Ember Lab confirmed that the Q4 2021 release window was mentioned erroneously, and that the game is still on track to launch in Q1 of the year, between January and March, as previously announced. Ember Lab states its in communication with Sony to get the release window info on the PlayStation website fixed.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is currently in development for PS5, PS4, and PC, and will support free PS4 to PS5 upgrades when it launches. You can check out the game's PC system requirements through here.


Borderlands 3 Seemingly Runs at 120 FPS in Performance Mode on PS5 and Xbox Series X

borderlands 3

Borderlands 3 is one among several current generation (or previous now) games that have received enhanced releases for the newer consoles. Up until now, all the marketing for the game has touted 4K and 60 FPS gameplay, but it seems the game actually allows you to significantly increase the frame rate, which is something that neither Gearbox nor 2K have made any official mention of in the lead-up to Borderlands 3's next-gen version's launch.

As discovered by a ResetEra user, on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, Borderlands 3's Performance Mode allows for 120 FPS gameplay, with the resolution being knocked down to 1080p- though I'm sure that's a sacrifice that many will make happily for such a boost in performance. The resolution mode, meanwhile, runs at the aforementioned 4K and 60 frames per second.

Borderlands 3 is currently available on Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Stadia. The game's second season recently kicked off, bringing with it a new wave of content- read more on that through here.


Xbox Series X/S Shortages Will Likely Continue Until Q2 2021 – Xbox CFO

xbox series x xbox series s

As is usually the case with new console launches, the Xbox Series X and Series S (and the PS5) have been facing supply constraint issues, with their stock selling out rapidly. These issues, in fact, have been propounded greatly by the fact that the consoles have launched in the middle of a global pandemic- and these supply issues are likely going to continue for a few more months yet. 

Speaking at the Jefferies Interactive Entertainment conference (via Seeking Alpha), Xbox CFO Tim Stuart said that the Xbox Series X and Series S supply constraints that are being faced in nearly all markets of the world are likely going to continue until the end of Q1 2021 (which ends on March 31st). 

"For Q2, we gave guidance at our last earnings call of a zone that we'll be in," Stuart said. "And we'll, frankly, be within that zone because we know the supply profile that we're having. I think we'll continue to see supply shortages as we head into the post-holiday quarter, so Microsoft's Q3, calendar Q1. And then when we get to Q4, all of our supply chain continuing to go full speed heading into kind of the pre-summer months."

Stuart added that once supply catches up with demand, we will begin to see "see some real velocity kick up" for both SKUs of the next generation of Xbox.

"And that's where I start to — I expect to see a little bit of the demand — the supply profile, meeting the demand profile," he said. "You'll be outside of a holiday window. We'll have supply cranking over the next, what, 4, 5, 6 months. And that's when I expect to see really that demand profile start to be met, which will be really, really great. And really, what that's going to do is, once we get into that world of a great high end, call it, a great high-powered console, plus that lower-end SKU for value, I think we're going to start to see some real velocity kick up, which I'm really excited to see."

Microsoft recently confirmed that the Xbox Series X/S enjoyed the biggest console launch in Xbox history, with reports claiming that the two collectively sold around 155,000 units in the UK within 48 hours of launch.


"We Don't Want to Just Pull Bethesda Content from PlayStation and Nintendo," Says Xbox CFO

xbox bethesda acquisition

Once Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax has officially gone through, everything from The Elder Scrolls and Fallout to DOOM and Wolfenstein will officially become Microsoft-owned properties. And ever since news of the acquisition has broken, questions have been asked aplenty about how Microsoft will handle exclusivity (or the hypothetical lack thereof) of all of these Bethesda properties.

Microsoft has suggested earlier that its focus is on ensuring that these games are played best on Xbox, and that exclusivity will be decided on a case-by-case basis, and more recent games certainly fall in line with that. Speaking at the Jefferies Interactive Entertainment conference (via Seeking Alpha), Xbox CFO Tim Stuart said that rather than completely pulling Bethesda content off of PlayStation or Nintendo platforms, Microsoft will instead focus on ensuring that those games are either available first on Xbox, or are best played on Xbox, before adding that the company intends to use Bethesda content to drive its Game Pass subscriptions.

"We highly encourage cross-platform play, simply from this landscape of, if it's good for the gaming ecosystem, it's good for us, classic rising tide lifts all boats," Stuart said. "What we'll do in the long run is we don't have intentions of just pulling all of Bethesda content out of Sony or Nintendo or otherwise. But what we want is we want that content, in the long run, to be either first or better or best or pick your differentiated experience, on our platforms. We will want Bethesda content to show up the best as — on our platforms."

"That's not a point about being exclusive," he continued. "That's not a point about we're being — adjusting timing or content or road map. But if you think about something like Game Pass, if it shows up best in Game Pass, that's what we want to see, and we want to drive our Game Pass subscriber base through that Bethesda pipeline.

"So again, I'm not announcing pulling content from platforms one way or the other. But I suspect you'll continue to see us shift towards a first or better or best approach on our platforms."

Microsoft's past comments have certainly suggested that the Bethesda deal hasn't been cemented to take that content away from other ecosystems, with Xbox boss Phil Spencer stating that the company doesn't need to go down that road for the purposes of recouping the investment.

Bethesda Game Studios bigwig Todd Howard has also suggested that upcoming releases like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 might not necessarily be exclusive to Xbox.


Assassin's Creed Valhalla Enjoys Massive Debut Week in UK Charts

assassins creed valhalla

It was a big week for physical software sales in the UK (via GamesIndustry), with multiple major releases coming out and selling impressive figures, and making for some rather surprising results in the sales charts for the region. As we reported earlier, for the first time in thirteen years, a new Call of Duty game failed to debut on top of the charts at launch, with Assassin's Creed Valhalla instead taking the pole position.

Ubisoft announced earlier that Valhalla drew in twice as many players at launch as Odyssey did in 2018, and that, of course, has translated to raw sales data as well. The latest Assassin's Creed game sold twice as many boxed copies at launch in the UK as Odyssey did, with 42% sales coming for the PS4 version, 18% for the PS5 version, and the remaining 40% for the Xbox versions.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War debuted in second place, with physical sales at launch down 64% from last year's Modern Warfare. It is worth noting, however, that Black Ops Cold War set a new franchise record for day one digital sales, so overall sales for the game are likely faring as per expectations.

Meanwhile, in third place we have Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Moraleswhich sold 56% less than its predecessor did at launch in 2018. 71% of its sales were for the PS5 version- and this is far from the only PS5 game to break it into the charts. Other launch titles such as Demon's Souls (No. 6), Sackboy: A Big Adventure (No. 13, with 89% sales on PS5), and Godfall (No. 16) all figured in the charts as well. That's especially impressive when you consider the fact that the PS5 won't even be launching in the UK until November 19.

You can check out the full top 10 for the week ending November 14 below.

  1. Assassin's Creed Valhalla
  2. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
  3. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  4. FIFA 21
  5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  6. Demon's Souls
  7. Super Mario 3D All-Stars
  8. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  9. Minecraft (Switch)
  10. Watch Dogs: Legion

Demon's Souls PS5 Review – A New Skin, But The Same Ol' Souls

There are few series that have been as influential in the last decade as the Souls franchise. Elements of FromSoftware's action RPGs have been lifted by everyone, from smaller indies to major blockbusters. It's fitting then that we start a new generation with an entry in that series that helped so define the last two generations of video games. From remaster wizards Bluepoint Games, we are going back to the very beginning with a remake of Demon's Souls, the only first party title for the PS5 launch that is a full scale next generation-only game, which is ironic, considering how much of the remake's core is built on some very old bones.

The original Demon's Souls released on the PS3 in 2009, and it was noted for its grim look of a once great kingdom now in ruin. Battered castles, putrid swamps, and corrupted men populate that dark fantasy world, one that FromSoftware would continue to refine in their Dark Souls series that served as spiritual successors to Demon's Souls. The remake, however, is very much not that.

Form the start, you can tell that Sony wants the game to be something of a showcase for what their new system can do. You boot up and are treated to a lovely action scene as a knight fights off hordes of enemies with others coming to his aide. Then you'll create your character, and the toolset is filled with detail- easily the most in-depth and best character creator in a Souls game to date.

"Form the start, you can tell that Sony wants the game to be something of a showcase for what their new system can do."

While the locations from the original title are faithfully recreated, the art style of the game is radically different. It's a clean, beautiful game that you can tell is trying to invoke the grimness of the original, but even a dark place like the first area in the Tower of Latria looks, well… pretty, even with squid-headed guards and hanging, rotting bodies. The Demon's Souls remake is really a looker, whether you are playing in Performance Mode with an almost buttery smooth framerate or Graphics Mode, which bumps up the look of the game slightly. There is a filter for Classic mode, along with a lot of other random visual filters, that hope to emulate that original dark feel, but it doesn't quite work. The Classic Mode filter adds some extra fog-like effects to the game, but doesn't really change how it fundamentally looks, so it never really draws the approximation to the original it hopes to.

To go along with that is incredible sound design. Listening to the game through just the TV speakers or through Sony's new 3D Pulse headset, the crisp and full sound of everything from the speech to the strange whispers and cries of things unknown come through beautifully. This is Souls by way of a slick AAA production budget. It's worth mentioning that newcomers or casual Souls fans are probably going to see a gorgeous game here, but some veterans and purists might not like how much the game's audio and visual design deviates from the original, and might wrinkle their nose at the new art direction, some of the character redesigns, and the more grandiose music design.

Even if the look and sound of Demon's Souls has changed, what's underneath remains largely the same. Bluepoint has taken great care to make the game feel as close as possible to the 2009 original, just not on a technical level that a mid-range budget PS3 title could have never achieved.

If you are someone completely new to Souls, the game can look almost impenetrable at first. You choose between various classes of familiar fantasy tropes for your character like Knights, Magicians, and Priests. You have all kinds of stats and items thrown at you, and it can be overwhelming at the start. The difficulty of Souls games is something that's always brought up, and a lot of that stems from the games not holding your hand much. You will get some basic instructions in the beginning, such as how to attack, block, parry, roll and the most basics of combat you'll be using throughout your journey, but after that you're largely on your own to discover mechanics or what type of playstyle suits you. There's no maps, no quest markers, and no quest logs. In fact, you can easily miss the fact that there are quests at all from the various NPCs you'll encounter. Enemies don't have glaringly obvious and choreographed weaknesses. You have to figure it all out on your own.

Demon's Souls

"This is Souls by way of a slick AAA production budget."

This obfuscation has become a key part of FromSoftware titles after Demon's Souls, and this remake keeps all of that intact. If you're one of those people who have a passing interest in Souls, but wish it were more open or accessible to go along with the new big mainstream budget, this won't be the game for you.

Demon's Souls' story is a straightforward and minimalistic one, at least in terms of what is presented directly to you. You're a warrior who has come to the Kingdom of Boletaria that has been overrun by fog and demonic forces that now threaten to consume the world at large. After being slain, you find yourself in the Nexus, an area that serves as a central hub for the game. From there it opens to several different levels. You are eventually able to jump between each of them at will to discover a strong variety of areas and enemies you'll have to face. If you find yourself stuck in one level, you can take a break and go check out another.

Even if they are separate levels, you can find things in one level that can help in another, like a magic sword that enemies in another level are weak to or a ring to negate poison that will be common in another terrain. Even if all the levels are separated out in distinct ways, that gives them all a feeling of interconnectivity. The Nexus and the levels will eventually start to change as well, keeping the game fresh. The only negative some will probably find is this game is that it's a lot less generous with its checkpoint system than later Souls game, making some sections a bit of slog to redo.

While there's been some minor changes from the original's gameplay, such as healing grasses now having weight so you can't horde an infinite amount anymore, things like weapons are still as satisfying as ever to experiment with. The class you pick in the beginning can play a role in what type of character you want to build, but ultimately you have a lot of freedom no matter what. You can go full armored knight and base a build around heavy armors and broad swords, or you can go the total opposite route and focus on ranged attacks with lighter clothing to roll away better to keep your distance.

Demon's Souls

"The weapons each feel distinct, so swinging a massive broad sword is much more different than the quickness of a small blade."

The weapons each feel distinct, so swinging a massive broad sword is much more different than the quickness of a small blade. Magic and ranged have their own style of play, too, and just to give you an idea of how much Bluepoint wanted to recreate the feel of the original, magic can also be hilariously broken with the right tools, just as it was in the PS3 game. Combat is all about patience, managing your stamina, and experimenting with what type of style speaks most to you, giving incredible freedom.

There's a PvP multiplayer element to consider for this, too, but unfortunately, due to technical issues, I was unable to try that out, and instead all my practice and tinkering went towards battling bosses.

The boss fights of Demon's Souls are plentiful, with each level being divided into sections and having a big bad you have to slay in order to proceed to the next. They serve as microcosms of the game itself, as they often appear impossible to handle when you first encounter them- but with enough patience and practice you can achieve victory, which feels satisfying when you finally take them down.

An early boss you encounter called Tower Knight – a massive giant suit of armor with a shield and a lance – is the most literal example of this, as you look up at the monstrosity and think there's no way you can possibly win this fight, especially since he's assisted by some annoying archers. But once you figure out the kinks of the battle, he's one of the easiest fights in the game. Most of Demon's Souls' boss fights focus on finding a trick or gimmick to beat them, making them rather simple in the end, but many are memorable, and series veterans will no doubt get a kick going back to them, since a lot of these feel like prototypes for later Souls bosses. That's not to say you won't die fighting them, because you will. Death in Demon's Souls is not meant to be seen as a punishment, after all, but a learning experience, and with the PS5's new SSD and minimal loading after deaths, it barely even registers.

Demon's Souls

"Death in Demon's Souls is not meant to be seen as a punishment, after all, but a learning experience, and with the PS5's new SSD and minimal loading after deaths, it barely even registers."

Besides the incredible new graphical fidelity and sound design, the most standout next gen feature is the use of that new SSD. In the past, death usually meant a long look at a loading screen with concept art, character models, item descriptions, or something of that nature as you either fumed with anger or contemplated what you did wrong. Now you're back into the action in an instant. It's not only with deaths, either- going back to the Nexus or to other levels is snap-of-the-finger fast as well. It's almost jarring with how quick it is, honestly. The game also takes advantage of the DualSense controller's haptic feedback and adaptive triggers with certain actions, but none of that sticks out like the graphics and loading time do, and the applications are mostly forgettable. It's all about this new pretty skin on top of the familiar- key word here being familiar.

I imagine even if you are entirely new to the franchise and have never played a Souls game at all, Demon's Souls will still have some familiarity to you in how it plays and its level design. We've seen so many different takes on the formula at this point it's become its own genre. Almost everything done here is pretty commonly nowadays. Others have even put their own unique spin on it to create something different. Games like Koei Tecmo's Nioh or Bandai Namco's Code Vein managed to take the formula and do something with it to make it their own. Even FromSoftware has tweaked the Souls formula from entry to entry. If you're someone who has grown tired of the formula and are looking for that next step forward, that next innovative, on the gameplay aspect, this really just isn't it. Putting that weight on a remake is probably misguided, but there is a part of me that is curious to see what Bluepoint would have done had they decided to not just reinvent the look and sound of the game, but fiddle with the actual guts of what made Demon's Souls what it was.

Though, in reality, Sony and Bluepoint were in the tough position all companies are when remaking a classic game, especially without direct involvement from the original developer. For a lot of fans, all they really want is an excuse to pop an amnesia pill. Being "just" a new Souls game, even if a remake, is all they need. For those who aren't dedicated fans, they'll be getting a fresh experience anyway. And for the purists, they already are probably going to have strong opinions about the new art direction and style without changing anything else. On top of that, you have the pressure of being tasked with launching alongside the latest hardware and having to be a showcase for its need feature- that's really a lot to try and juggle. With that in mind, Demon's Souls manages to do everything it needs to do, and this remake is a testament to just how good of a game the original was, that all it needed was a fresh coat of paint and still be nothing less than fantastic.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.


DiRT 5 Accolades Trailer Highlights Strong Critical Reception

dirt 5

Codemasters rarely ever stumbles with its racing games, and its most recent racer, DiRT 5, is definitely one of its stronger ones in recent memory. Bringing a much more bombastic and arcade flavour to the series than fans have been used to over the last few years, DiRT 5 has garnered strong praise from critics and audiences alike, and to highlight some of that praise, Codemasters have released a new accolades trailer for the game.

In our own review, which you can see highlighted in the trailer below, we called it "a true step forward for its genre", praising it for its dynamic weather system, its extensive campaign mode, its robust track editor and creator, and more. You can read our full review through here.

DiRT 5 is out now for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It is also slated to launch for Stadia some time in 2021. The game recently added V-Sync and improved DualSense capabilities on PS5 with its latest update.


PS5 Console Review – Truly Next-Gen

We've made it, at long last, to the next generation. Or, I suppose now, the current generation. The PlayStation 5 is out now and into the hands of many, ourselves included, and we're excited to give you our full review of Sony's latest console. Coming into this, I'm sure many were wondering which version of Sony we would get this go around – the cocky and brash version we saw with the PlayStation 3, or the much more user focused version we saw with the PlayStation 4 that was an unequivocal success. Thankfully it's the latter because at the end of the day, this is a fantastic console and a near home run for Sony. It's not without faults, and has some areas for improvement, but if you are looking to dive into the next generation of gaming, then look no further.

When looking into the PlayStation 5, I'll be diving into the consoles aesthetics including the controller, the new UI, the DualSense's capabilities, the overall performance and backwards compatibility, the PS5 library that I've had hands on time with and the storage limitations. The TL;DR of it all is, again, that I don't think you'll be disappointed here- but enough setup. Let's dive into the specifics.

SIZE DOESN'T MATTER

"This is a fantastic console and a near home run for Sony."

The first thing you'll notice when unboxing your newest console is the sheer size. We all knew it was going to be big based on all of the pre-release coverage, but actually having it in front of you really does drive home how large this is. It's not a deal breaker, but it does become limiting in how you can place it within your home. Thankfully, I have enough space to place it horizontally in my entertainment center, though your mileage may vary here. As far as orientation goes, Sony includes a stand for both vertical and horizontal orientation. It's subjective which one you'll prefer, I prefer the vertical, however it just won't work with my space, so I make do with horizontal. Using the stand is… okay. I will admit it is a bit cumbersome to have to get out a screw, align everything, and attach, but theoretically you're only doing this a couple of times in the entire life of your console. Could there be a more elegant solution? Well, I'm no product designer, but I'd sure think so- either way, this is what we've got.

This generation Sony certainly went for a polarizing visual for the PlayStation 5. Whichever side of the fence you land on, one thing is undeniable. It's unique and definitely eye-catching. The matte white finish to the exterior however is, to my eye, very nice looking in combination with the glossy black of the center. This juxtaposition is a bold choice but one that pays off well. The new DualSense controller matches this aesthetic well and further drives home the separation of generations that Sony is very boldly drawing a line in the sand with.

The front of the PlayStation 5 boasts an Ultra HD Blu-ray optical drive, power and eject buttons, a high-speed USB Type-A port and a super-speed USB Type-C port. The inclusion of a USB Type-C port is exciting, and a nice step forward for this generation of consoles. The backside features a standard power connection, HDMI 2.1 which is very exciting, an ethernet port and two super-speed USB Type-A ports. Basically, the PlayStation 5 has all the necessities, minus, for some users, the optical audio port as it seems this is the generation to push the HDMI features further.

FRESH COAT OF PAINT

ps5

"The PS5 UI is familiar enough to dive into without much trouble, and finding what you need is easy, but it's also fresh enough to, again, feel new and exciting."

When you boot up the PS5 for the first time you're greeted with a completely new user interface. Again, this is Sony drawing a clear line in the sand about console generations, and I won't lie, there is an excitement about experiencing something revolutionary each generation over something iterative. Of course, the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality has massive benefits of its own. The PS5 UI is familiar enough to dive into without much trouble, and finding what you need is easy, but it's also fresh enough to, again, feel new and exciting.

The new home screen, thankfully, is presented in crisp 4K display and the overall look is fairly minimal compared to past generations. Icons for games are in the top left of the screen and presented much smaller and closer together than that of the PS4. When hovering over a game selection its hub is expanded, showcasing large splash screen visuals and access to information about the game such as trophy progress, activities, news and broadcasts. Games and media are separated into two tabs at the top in an effort to keep the home screen less cluttered.

The most significant change to the UI is the addition of what Sony is calling Cards or Activity Cards. These are containers that hold various bits of information about the games you are playing, from articles, screenshots and more. Some of the features are more exciting than others however, like the ability to see an estimated time you need to complete a task or a level, or the ability to get in-game hints without needing to pull out any other device. Some Activity Cards can also utilize the new picture-in-picture functionality, letting you pin objectives to the side of the screen while remaining in-game. It really feels like Sony is doing everything they can to keep you in the PS5 experience, and it works.

Another really unique feature to the cards is the ability to jump to a particular level or challenge immediately. This is thanks to the new SSD in the PlayStation 5, more details on that shortly. Even though the PS5 doesn't have a Quick Resume feature, this is as close as it gets. It certainly makes finishing challenges in Astro's Playroom easier than ever and is a consistent time-saver.

One major adjustment from previous generations is the functionality of the PlayStation Store. For one, you no longer need to open it as its own separate app. It's now fully integrated into the UI of the console, making it faster and easier to access. The organization is clean and intuitive, but again, it's the integration and speed of access that is the real selling point here. The Store, or in the PlayStation Plus section on the home bar, is where you'll want to go to access the new PlayStation Plus Collection if you can, and I'd certainly recommend it as a great way to immediately bolster your gaming collection day one.

Ease of use and convenience seems to be a key focus for Sony as there are some quality of life updates and accessibility features. You can now change system-wide settings that apply to all games by default, such as enabling subtitles, selecting difficulty, camera control and more. So, if you're an inverted camera type of gamer, this is the generation you've been waiting for. When diving into the settings further you can adjust things like color display, text size, contrast, chat transcription, etc. It's great that Sony has clearly put a significant amount of emphasis on features like this, only expanding the accessibility and reach of their newest console. I expect these features to only expand in the coming years.

THAT NEXT-GEN FEELING

ps5 dualsense

"Surprisingly enough, one of the items that feels truly "next-gen" is the new PlayStation 5 controller, the DualSense."

Surprisingly enough, one of the items that feels truly "next-gen" is the new PlayStation 5 controller, the DualSense. It's slightly heavier and larger than the DualShock 4 with updates throughout, like it's ergonomics, texture for better grip and various other updates that make it a joy to hold onto. The love and fandom put into it is awesome because if you look closely at your controller, the grip is actually the Sacred Symbols! Like the UI, it feels familiar enough to not be jarring, but new enough to feel truly exciting. The reason why I say this controller truly feels "next-gen" is because of the new haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers which come to life when playing. I'll focus on Astro's Playroom and Spider-Man: Miles Morales and how the controller functions within these two games.

Astro's Playroom is a truly impressive game and its use of the DualSense only adds to that. It makes sense then that Sony would bundle each PS5 with Astro's Playroom so you can really get a feel for what this controller is and what the future of PlayStation can be. Think of this as a tech demo of sorts, but really it's so much more than that, honestly this is the most "Nintendo" game experience Sony has ever made, in my opinion. It's packed with charm, platforming goodness and tons of easter eggs for the PlayStation fan. In this game you play as Astro, and as you do something as simple as walking in this game, the DualSense gives you different feedback that makes you feel like you are walking on different material. Wood and sand feels completely different from ice, and ice is different from metal and so on. It's near impossible to describe to someone without experiencing it, but the controller is able to provide a wide range of vibrations, from barely noticeable to significant rumble all enhancing your immersion.

Beyond that, when you interact in the game by using weapons like a bow and arrow, the new adaptive triggers actually add a feeling of tension or movement that really make you feel like you're in that game world. Speaking of feeling like you're in a game world, Spider-Man: Miles Morales uses the DualSenses capabilities in much less obvious ways than Astro's Playroom.

astro's playroom

"Astro's Playroom is a truly impressive game and its use of the DualSense only adds to that."

Insomniac Games have opted to give you subtle cues that make you feel more immersed, like the tension of the web swinging across New York or the rumble of the subway. It's small, but adds up to create a big impact in this feeling of a generational leap of consoles. Of course, should you find any of this uncomfortable or painful due to injuries or just do not enjoy this new experience, you can simply turn them off, or even reduce the experience through the system menus.

Ultimately this will fall to developers to put these new features to use so they don't end up being a gimmick. Based on the experiences from just these two games alone, I have high hopes that developers will find reason to implement them. Quick side-note, even though the DualSense boasts all of these new features, I haven't noticed a significant drop in battery life. I'm able to play games throughout the day without fear of having to swap controllers in the middle of a session, it's no Switch Pro Controller battery, but it'll treat you well. Time will tell if this will hold true or not, but for now, I don't see any worries.

A NEED FOR SPEED

marvel's spider-man miles morales

"The performance of the PS5 is impressive, clearly, but the real star of the show here is the new SSD."

Let's talk performance, shall we? The PlayStation 5 features significantly more powerful hardware than its predecessor. The PS5 is complete with a custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU clocked at 3.5GHz (variable frequency) and a custom GPU based on AMD's RDNA 2 architecture at just over 10 teraflops and 36 compute units clocked at 2.23GHz (also variable frequency). It has 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and a custom 825GB SSD. So, what does this mean to you, the gamer? Well, it means finally we get uncompromised, or significantly less compromised, visuals.

Games now have the power to run at 4K 60FPS more regularly with room to hit 120FPS in some instances. Certain games, like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, still offer you the option of a performance mode, or a fidelity mode. In Spider-Man: Miles Morales with fidelity mode turned on, the game runs at 4K and 30FPS with ray tracing enabled. In this mode, the game truly shines, with wonderful reflections from windows along with the sun peeking out behind the skyscrapers of New York. It's simply gorgeous. In performance mode the game runs at 4K and 60FPS at the sacrifice of ray tracing. Swinging through New York in this mode is exhilarating and smooth, although I will be honest and say that I did find myself missing the impressive lighting. Either option is great depending on your preferences, though I'll probably opt for fidelity mode for the time being.

The performance of the PS5 is impressive, clearly, but the real star of the show here is the new SSD. Although it is also the biggest concern, I'll get to that in a moment. To continue to reference Spider-Man: Miles Morales, thanks to the SSD, when booting into the game from the homepage it takes about 8 seconds or so. Beyond that, fast travel within games actually feels like fast traveling. If you want to move anywhere within the world of Mile Morales, it only takes a few seconds and you're there, significantly increasing your play time and reducing your wait time. The loading within the game is also improved, and you can basically say goodbye to stuttering or pop-in while swinging in New York. This experience, combined with the previously mentioned DualSense immersion means you are always engaged in the world of the game.

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"You're left with only 667GB of free storage after any updates and system data, and frankly, that's not a lot. In the future this could be resolved with external or internal SSD expansions, but that's not a viable solution just yet because of the speed requirements set by Sony."

That downside I referenced earlier? Well, it's the size of the new SSD, coming in at 825GB of storage. At the end of the day, it's not the worst, but it's far from the best. You're left with only 667GB of free storage after any updates and system data, and frankly, that's not a lot. In the future this could be resolved with external or internal SSD expansions, but that's not a viable solution just yet because of the speed requirements set by Sony. You can use an external drive to store backwards compatible PS4 games which is nice and should be taken advantage of. But the downside is right now you can't place PS5 games on external hard drives, not even to use as storage. It makes sense that you can't play the games that way, but it would be nice to use it as a storage system to swap back and forth rather than doing a fresh install each time. Hopefully that can be resolved with an update in the near future. All of this is not a deal-breaker by any means, but something to keep an eye out for.

The console is also so much quieter than the PS4 and PS4 Pro, though that's not saying much. When running games for hours I've not noticed significant sound coming from the system, and the heat has not been an issue for me either. I haven't ran a heat gun past it or anything (don't have one), but my hand was just fine touching the PS5 during a long gaming session. I will note however that when watching a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc, at one point you could hear the disc spinning up quite significantly about an hour or so into the movie. It quit after a few seconds and never came back. Hopefully that will not be a trend, because otherwise it's a silent console.

WHAT'S OLD IS NEW

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"I have not been able to test an overwhelming amount of PS4 games on the PS5, but the handful I've been able to throw at it, I've seen marked improvements."

I have not been able to test an overwhelming amount of PS4 games on the PS5, but the handful I've been able to throw at it, I've seen marked improvements. Load times are probably the most immediate increase you'll notice, sometimes cutting the time in half from what you'd expect. The one thing worth noting is that if games have a locked framerate, that will be locked on your PlayStation 5 as well and you will not gain any improvements outside of stability there. For games with unlocked frame rates, do expect to hit 60FPS consistently.

It's also easier than ever to transfer your game saves from the cloud to your PlayStation 5 and pick up where you left off on your last gen games. At the end of the day, playing PS4 games on your PS5 allows you to really appreciate these games even more. Being able to experience them in 4K and their max frame rate is delightful. This means you'll have little reason to still have your PlayStation 4 out, and honestly you might need the physical space to make room for this behemoth. Seriously, it's big. It's great, but it's big.

CONCLUSION

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"Somehow, Sony have done it again."

Somehow, Sony have done it again, managing to release a follow-up console to the immensely popular PlayStation 4 that is not a disappointment, but instead a home run. From the increased fidelity and impressive performance of the SSD, to the truly next gen experiences of the DualSense controller, and the wonderful first-party games like Astro's Playroom or the latest from Insomniac in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, you've got every reason to be excited.

The PS5 is not without faults, and there are concerns about the storage space of the SSD in the long term, making sure developers take advantage of the DualSense features or the activity cards, and trying to fit the darn thing into your entertainment space, but by and large Sony's promise of next gen gaming truly delivers.


Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review – Love in Every Stitch

It's been nearly ten years since PlayStation's lovable Sackboy last stepped outside the constraints of the 2.5 dimensional world with LittleBigPlanet Karting. While that game didn't set the world on fire, it was intriguing to see the undeniably endearing world of LittleBigPlanet portrayed in full 3D, and it certainly left fans of the franchise feeling like it could be a precursor to something much bigger one day. Well, that day is here, and we finally have that much bigger thing. Sackboy: A Big Adventure is the first true 3D platformer for Media Molecule's hand-crafted world and the lovingly stitched-together characters who inhabit it, and I'm happy to report it pretty much totally works out just like you'd think it would.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure has a story you've undoubtedly seen before, and it unfolds exactly the same way you've seen it unfold. An unassuming hero, Sackboy, going up against seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat the vile villain Vex, rescue his friends, and save the peaceful Craftworld from being transformed into a land of nightmares and chaos. If you've ever played a video game, then you've definitely seen this story in one form or another. Good vs evil, defying expectations, rising to the occasion, etc. While this set-up does weave nicely into the LittleBigPlanet universe, and a nice handful of well-performed charismatic characters keep it from feeling too generic, it would have been nice to see something a little more unique patched in to match the creativity of everything else. That said, it works fine in giving this game an excuse to exist, and it fleshes out Sackboy's world just enough to feel like a meaningful step forward for the franchise. It's not the reason you'll want to buy the game, though.

"Sackboy: A Big Adventure is the first true 3D platformer for Media Molecule's hand-crafted world and the lovingly stitched-together characters who inhabit it, and I'm happy to report it pretty much totally works out just like you'd think it would."

Like all games in the LittleBigPlanet universe, the hand-woven tapestry of Sackboy: A Big Adventure wastes no time letting you know you're in a game from Media Molecule's iconic IP. Thanks to the steady hand of Sumo Digital and a complete devotion to the LittleBigPlanet twine-spun aesthetic at every turn, the world that Media Molecule created all those years ago has never looked better than it does here. Different fabric types like satin, wool, canvas, and other materials are all woven together with countless zippers and stitches making each level feel like what an extremely creative free-spirited child would come up with after going nuts in a craft store. Running around in each of the game's levels with the freedom that a true 3D platformer allows is a unique one in an old genre that usually feels exhausted of new ideas.

Much the same, for the LittleBigPlanet series, Sackboy: A Big Adventure injects a much-needed dose of vitality, as the side-scrolling games have largely done all they can do at this point. It's a really gorgeous game in all regards. The level designs that have Sackboy being flung across large chasms and traveling large distances make the levels feel comfortably large, yet the shallow depth of field keeps your immediate surroundings feeling adorably small at the same time. It's an interesting balance that I don't think any other platformer series has ever quite struck. If you like the look and feel of previous LittleBigPlanet games or the criminally underrated Tearaway, then you'll be happy to see it turned up to 11 here.

While admiring the way the many levels of Sackboy: A Big Adventure are lovingly designed is a nearly faultless exercise in visual appeal, actually playing through them isn't quite as consistently smooth. Sackboy's jumping and fluttering have their trademark floaty animations, and while that felt distinctly fitting for the previous games, it makes precise platforming here fairly wonky at times, especially later in the game when the big generous surfaces are replaced by smaller, often moving platforms. Leaving the ground and coming back down just isn't as clean and decisive as most 3D platformers make it.

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"Sackboy's jumping and fluttering have their trademark floaty animations, and while that felt distinctly fitting for the previous games, it makes precise platforming here fairly wonky at times, especially later in the game when the big generous surfaces are replaced by smaller, often moving platforms."

There's a reason why Crash Bandicoot, Mario 64, and the vast majority of the other classic 3D platformers have simple, straightforward jumping arcs; it's instinctively easy to process and predict, which lets you focus on timing the jumps instead of memorizing multiple key frames of animation. Combine that with all the overly-flamboyant animations of the enemies that can, at times, make it unnecessarily hard to tell what exactly they're doing, and you end up with a lot of cool looking animations that ultimately get in the way of the gameplay more than they complement it. I definitely would have preferred to have seen this dialed back a tad for a 3D game as it does lead to occasional hits and deaths that feel uncharacteristically cheap for the series.

That said, if you can push past those speed bumps, you'll find a wealth of interesting levels that always seem know when to mix things up with wall-walking, auto-scrolling sections, platforms that you control by tilting the controller, rhythm-based levels with licensed music, and other gameplay devices that really demonstrate Sumo Digital's ability to make fun games and why they were chosen to steward this beloved IP. The fact that up to 4 players can go through the levels together is also a nice touch and ensures that there will always be a good reason to come back to them well after you've completed them on your own.

I would have liked to have seen a bit more challenge throughout the experience. While it is obviously true that this game was designed with accessibility, the same is also true for games like Ratchet and Clank and Knack, yet those games still aren't afraid to put up a good challenge from time to time. Sackboy rarely does anything even remotely challenging. In fact, I don't think I would have lost more than a single life or two in my entire playtime had it not been for the aforementioned wonky jumping and convoluted animations of Sackboy and his foes. It's easy to appreciate the variety throughout the game, but variety can only go so far to keep things interesting if the game hardly ever presents me with anything I can't breeze through on the first try. The knight challenges and bonus rooms can give you a little bit of a chance to test your skills, but imposing a challenge on yourself to get a better score isn't quite the same as encountering organic difficulty throughout the game.

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"That said, if you can push past those speed bumps, you'll find a wealth of interesting levels that always seem know when to mix things up with wall-walking, auto-scrolling sections, platforms that you control by tilting the controller, rhythm-based levels with licensed music, and other gameplay devices that really demonstrate Sumo Digital's ability to make fun games and why they were chosen to steward this beloved IP."

Sackboy: A Big Adventure clearly takes inspiration from the best that the platformer genre has to offer. It's levels being contained in thematically diverse hub worlds, a healthy variety of level types, and a story that, while refusing to deviate from the beaten path, still unfolds in a steady way all harken back to what games like Mario 64 got so right as the genre was being created. But it also doesn't forget about the core tenants of the past LittleBigPlanet games with plenty of customization and a fun, arts-and-crafts style so full of personality that it perpetually spills over the edge every chance it gets. If you're looking for a challenge in platforming precision or an evolution of the 3D platformer genre, this adventure might not be for you. Sackboy's take on the 3D platformer gains little ground in doing much new with the genre other than making an LittleBigPlanet version of it. But if you just want a good excuse to jump back into the world of LittleBigPlanet on your PS4 (or PS5), Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a great choice.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.


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