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Game Review: Days Gone

Posted in botch, reviews, video game by commorancy on June 20, 2021

This former Sony PS4 exclusive game (now also available on Windows), while sporting only the rare fun game mechanic, is hands-down one of the worst single-player games I have ever played. It’s not bad in the same exact way as Fallout 76, but it is definitely the absolute worst game of its kind. Days Gone needs to begone. Let’s explore.

What’s wrong with Days Gone?

That’s a good question. Let’s dive deep into this Sony Interactive / Bend Studio disaster. It’s funny. You would think that Sony could put together good games… especially considering that they seem to keep hiring large ghost developers behind the scenes to put these games together. Well, you’d be wrong. Let’s take a look at Ghost of Tsushima to understand where Day’s Gone goes so horribly astray. Even though Ghost of Tsushima would be released not quite one year after Days Gone, they both share similar problems. Both games must have also been in development during the same time frame.

While Ghost of Tsushima could have been a good game, it copied way too much of Assassin’s Creed for its own good and didn’t do it very well. Though, both Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima are very pretty games, looking beautiful can only take a game so far. The blowing reeds and flower petal particles in Ghost of Tsushima are wondrous to behold, same for the Oregon mountainous landscape in Days Gone. It’s the game’s mechanics which undermine all of that beauty. Why would I want to play Assassin’s Creed set in feudal Japan when it’s not even written by Ubisoft? Yeah, so there’s that. Regardless, the problems that plague Ghost of Tsushima are the same problems that also plague Days Gone, except Days Gone is even worse than Ghost of Tsushima by an order of magnitude.

With Days Gone, the problems start right from the beginning. First, the game steals the hero’s bike away from him. An unnecessary start to this disaster. If that were the only problem, I could live with it. Second, the sole point to stealing the motorcycle is in giving the player a way to spend time rebuilding the bike… a completely unnecessary included mechanic. That’s the least of the problems with the bike in this game, however. It’s perfectly fine to allow us to rebuild the bike to our own whims and on our own time, but the stolen bike storyline was entirely unnecessary.

Even More Bike Problems

The motorcycle given in concession to the stolen bike is crap by comparison. This crap bike requires the game player to grind, grind, grind for money to repair and enhance the bike. That means heading out to do all of the missions in the game. Except we then run afoul of all of the insipid bike mechanics.

Gasoline UsageStupid Mechanic #1

That this bike mechanic exists is entirely insipid. Real world motorcycles get between 35-40 miles per gallon on average. That means a full 6 gallon tank of gas should see a motorcycle go around 240 miles. In Days Gone, a full tank of gas lasts about 5 minutes of driving, or maybe 3-5 miles. The game literally forces you to stop and gas up about every 5-10 minutes of play. It’s an incredibly time wasting game mechanic. I get that the game wanted to add some measure of realism around requiring gasoline, but this mechanic is overkill and overly burdensome on the player.

If you’re planning on adding this level of burden to the player, then at least have the decency to allow us to disable requiring gasoline as a game option. Grand Theft Auto isn’t that stupid. Why not follow GTA’s formula which doesn’t require gas at all? Gassing up the motorcycle constantly is not only repetitive, it’s insanely stupid. If you’re going to include a gassing up mechanic, at least make it realistic enough that you can drive from one side of the map to the other and back on a single tank. This problem is the first in the tip of this game’s cracking iceberg. Oh yes, it does get worse.

Paying for GasStupid Mechanic #2

When you’re out and about running around, gassing up every few minutes, you can find gas canisters and gas pumps which offer infinite free gas. You just pump and go. However, when you finally meet up with the various factions, these factions require that you pay for gas. Why would you ever do that? Just drive a little bit up the road and find a gas can in the back of a truck that will completely fill the tank. It’s the complete opposite of how this mechanic should have been designed. You should be required to pay for gas at pumps and get free gas with the factions.

RepairsStupid Mechanic #3

Motorcycles don’t just randomly fall apart as you ride them. Yet, in this game, they do. Hopping over the most insignificant little ramp immediately causes damage to the bike. Meaning, by the time you land, the bike already needs 15-30% repair work for each and every little bump. See, I told you that it gets worse.

Further, as you get clothes-lined or snipered by road side ambushes, the bike’s damage level immediately goes from 100% to 0%. There’s no chance of seeing less damage from an ambush. The bike’s repair level is always at 0% after an ambush of any kind. It’s like the bike is some kind of child’s toy made of plastic or something. This tiresome repair mechanic combined with the constant tank refilling makes the bike more of a hassle than a help.

Worse, it takes at least 10 pieces of scrap, probably more, to repair the bike from 0% to 100%. Looking for scrap in this game is also pain in the ass… finding two pieces here, one piece there, cracking open hoods of cars in among a bunch of ghouls. Anyway, you can drive around when the bike is 20% repaired, but that means one tiny little bump and you’re back at 0% again. Both the gas refilling mechanic and the repair mechanic combine to make the entire bike worthless and clinch the disaster that is this game. You could probably walk to locations faster than riding a bike, were it not for the ghouls.

Ghouls and Apocalypse

Here’s where we finally get into the Days Gone story, such that it isn’t. Basically, the world has undergone an apocalypse. A virus has been released that has turned many people into zombies, not unlike the ghouls in Fallout 76. The ghouls are pretty much ripped straight out of Fallout, lunging attacks, screaming and all. It’s like the developers said, “Fuck it, let’s just steal the Feral Ghouls right from Fallout”. So, that’s what they did. While Fallout 76 has modified the Ghouls to be able to run like the Bionic Man at supersonic speeds, the Ghouls in Days Gone remain at least a bit less superhuman than that. That doesn’t make them any better.

The point is, it’s basically an apocalyptic world pretty much like Fallout. Instead of radiation being the culprit, it’s a virus. Regardless, the power plants don’t work, towns are abandoned, ghouls roam the land and the story attempts to unfold what went on and why the ghouls act as they do. It’s a very weak story designed only to give the hero character motivation to find his girlfriend after they get separated.

He also has a brother who loses an arm to burn damage because of other threats across the land. Of course, the world wouldn’t be complete without some deranged faction with loony toons followers, which seems to indicate the first stage of the virus. The second stage of the virus is the ghouls who have no mental capacity other than instinct to kill only. The third stage of the virus is when the ghoul turns into an albino version and gains significant strength. There is a fourth stage of the virus when it turns a ghoul into a hulking brute beast. Not sure how that happens, but the hero encounters one as a boss. If there are further stages, and there probably are, I’ve not yet played far enough in to encounter them.

The ghoul mechanic works okay as an enemy, but it’s also way too much like the ghouls in Fallout. Couldn’t they come up with something new? The ghouls are only a small part of this game’s problems.

Quests and Map Markers

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, literally. The game has you traipse all over the map using that weak ass bike for each and every quest. Noooo, the quests can’t possibly unfold close in proximity. The game literally has you go to one side of the map, perform a quest, then drive all the way across to the other side for the next one. This constant and incessant yo-yo movement is tiresome and highly annoying, particularly when you’re constantly required to refill and repair the bike halfway across the map each and every time.

There is no efficiency in layout of the quests on the map. It’s super annoying and yet becomes completely predictable. This means you’ll need to drive by a refill station at the halfway point before completing the trip to the quest marker… every single time.

There’s no fun to be had with this mechanic. It’s simply becomes tiresome after the third time doing it. Repetitive? Oh, yes. Fun? No way. This game is certainly on its way to being one of the worst games ever.

Ghoul Hordes

Here’s another game mechanic that seems to have been added just to see if it could be done technically. Sure, there’s a story element that weakly ties into the hordes. Additionally, the hordes seem mostly to have been included to also inconvenience the player. There are literal times where the horde goes right over your bike which is parked somewhere away from you. When you want to go back to your bike, you can’t because the horde is right there.

Let me also state that, in general, hordes are basically unkillable under most circumstances. What I mean is that for a player to attempt to attack a horde means certain death. There are so many ghouls in a horde, you simply don’t have enough bullets or melee damage to kill every single one. The only thing you can do is hide in the bushes and wait for them to walk by… slowly… which is like watching paint dry. You can’t do anything else while waiting on a horde. Yet another insipid game mechanic.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a way to defeat a horde as I’ve done it. You must do it at a location where the horde can’t get to you, like on top of a small cliff where only your bike can reach. So long as the ghouls can’t climb up, you’re safe. You can stand on the edge, craft and rain molotovs down onto them. Molotovs are actually the best way to handle ghoul hordes in this game… and these are the easiest grenade-style weapons to make. Unfortunately, ghouls are very agile and can amass in very large numbers quickly and silently. Don’t take a horde on unless you know they can’t get to you.

With that said, hordes are an unnecessary inclusion. I get why they were added, but they’re mostly a nuisance since there’s no general means of taking them out. Taking out a horde requires a very specific set of circumstances which don’t occur often… unless you explicitly know how to plan for it.

Motorcycle Chases

Inevitably, you’ll run into one of the many poorly designed motorcycle chase routines in the game. In fact, these seem to happen about every 5th quest. You’ll arrive at a quest marker and a random motorcycle will speed by requiring you to chase and “subdue” them. Oh no, you can’t kill the biker. You must keep them alive.

Worse, though, is that your gun holds perhaps 10 shots and you’re limited to which guns you can use while on a bike. Oh, but you’re not just chasing one bike, you’re chasing 3 bikers: a primary biker you need to subdue and two random bullet sponge bikers riding just behind. These bullet sponge bikers were included simply to waste bullets. By the time you get those two gone, you’ve already wasted half of the ammo in your gun. This means you have maybe 3-5 bullets left to attempt to stop the fleeing primary biker… not enough to actually do the job.

If the game mechanic only had you chase ONE biker, you would have well enough ammo to do the job. Instead, the game forces you to waste ammo on unnecessary random bullet sponge bikers that honestly make no sense being there.

This chase routine wouldn’t be so bad if there were ways to carry more ammo with you on the bike, but you can’t. All the ammo you carry on your character is all of the ammo you have for that gun. Because there are limited guns you can use while on a motorcycle, once you are out of ammo, the whole thing is done. Without ammo, you cannot subdue the biker without trying to ram him off the road, which is next to impossible on the crap bike they’ve given you. If you could swing your melee bat at him or his bike, you could easily subdue him. The game doesn’t let you use this weapon while on a bike.

Here’s where the game gets its crap reputation and why Days Gone is one of the worst games I have ever played. If, as a developer, you’re requiring us to use a bike, then damn well let us carry as much ammo as we please. Why 10 pieces only? Ammo doesn’t weigh much and even if it does, you could store it on the bike somewhere. You might have to stop to reload, but you could then continue. Unfortunately, the game offers the player no such mechanic. Once you’re out of ammo, you’re pretty effectively forced to abandon the chase and try to buy ammo, find some in a cop car or attempt to locate ammo at some other place. This means you simply can’t finish that quest. It also means you’re going to be redoing that quest over and over and over until you can find just the right set of circumstances to get that dumbass on the bike to stop. Why the game developers didn’t allow us to use all of our weapons, including the melee weapons (which can be used one handed), I have no idea.

One last thing about this chase is that the game refuses to let you go faster than the bike ahead. The game always keeps the biker ahead of your bike regardless of how fast you are traveling. This makes it almost impossible to straddle along side the biker to knock him off. Oh, and guns? Yeah, the primary biker gets to carry not only pistols, but shotguns and molotovs… something the game doesn’t allow the player to do.

Again, nothing fun about these chase scenarios… at all. Simply tedium and frustration only.

Factions

Here’s where the game takes a U turn. There are three factions which you can “join”. By “join”, I mean become a mercenary for. Ultimately, you’re only in it to take quests, fetch things and kill intruders. These quests earn you reputation points and money with each of the factions. Though, why you’d want to be friends with these factions, I’ve no idea. All three of them are run by stupid, insensitive schmucks. None of them understand the gravity of what’s going on out in the world, nor do they really care to know. As long as they have the fence that blocks out the ghouls, they’re happy. All three of the factions really make no sense being there in the way that they are.

It’s actually one of the dumbest game mechanics I’ve seen in an apocalyptic game… especially considering that all three factions are nearly identically configured. Other than in a video game, how could that ever happen?

Ultimately, the factions are only there to dole out quests for the player and offer up money to buy crap.

Disappearing Quests

Here’s another mechanic that always makes me angry every time I see it in a game. You’ll be playing along and something randomly comes along and kills the player’s character. With this game, not only is there an incredibly LONG reload time waiting for the entire game to almost completely reload, once it does reload the quest you were on has completely disappeared along with any enemies who were there.

Worse, these are apparently one-time quests which appear once, but don’t appear again… so you can’t retry. This is true of the roadside ambushes. When they appear, you have one chance to subdue the attackers. If they kill the player, that mini-quest is long gone and won’t appear again… so no vengeance in this game. This situation is entirely frustrating to the point where I want to break the game disk in half. Thankfully, it’s a digital copy and that’s not possible. Though, I most certainly have considered deleting the game from my console several times. For whatever reason, I keep coming back to it in hopes that it might get better. It never does.

Fun in the Game

There are a few places in this game where I have had at least a minimal amount of fun. Though, it has nothing to do with that crap ass bike, the rail quests or any other story progression. The one and only one fun element is taking out the ghoul nests. These are side quests that are solely designed to enable fast travel to points beyond the nest site. However, these activities are probably the most fun thing to do in this game world. The reason is, there are no artificial constraints forced onto the player, like the bike chase artificial weapon constraints that sap all of the fun out of what could have been great fun.

Because clearing out the nests is entirely an open world side quest, you can use whatever weapons you want, choose whatever tactics you like and do it as you see fit. The developers don’t stand in your way by having you do it in some very artificial and unusual way. With all of the primary quests, it’s all so rail based. Each of those primary quests are so artificially constrained, so in-your-face and so unnecessarily burdensome, the player must fully play by the developer’s rail-based rules to complete it. You can’t venture off of your bike and choose to do it your own way, otherwise the game will detect that and fail the quest.

With many of the side quests, there are few, if any constraints on how you to achieve your goal. If you wish to be sneaky, that’s your choice. If you want to lure the ghouls into a specific spot and take them all out with a bomb, go for it. It’s all left entirely up to the player. It’s these open world tactics that make this game fun. It’s also the artificially constrained main quests that make the game repetitive and tedious.

Game developers need to learn that open world games without any play constraints are way more fun than rail-based quests. Such quests, in the case of this game, force the gamer into artificially constrained play methods to complete that quest… such as being forced to craft and throw a molotov, but you cannot use any other weapons. While molotovs have a place and a use, they are not always useful for every situation. Let the player determine the best strategy to employ for quest closure. Don’t force the use of a strategy onto the player as it makes no sense and saps the fun out of allowing the player to choose their play style.

Enforcing a specific play strategy onto a player is best left up to a game’s tutorials. Tutorials are designed to show the player how to use a molotov or a pistol or a sniper rifle. This is the one and only one place where artificial constraints can be used. Players understand that tutorials are designed to teach how to use a specific game mechanic. However, once in a open game world, those constraints need to disappear. When they reappear as part of a primary quest, the quest becomes more about fighting the constraints and less about actually completing the quest.

Open world games need to remain open world 100% of the time, not whenever is convenient for the developer. That developers seem to think we want to play under super-artificial constraints is both stupid and asinine. We don’t.

Side Quests vs Main Quests

If side quests can offer fully open play, thus allowing the gamer to choose his or her strategy, then why are the main quests so constrained? It’s a valid question… one that game developers need to pose internally to their team. If the game can offer fully unconstrained questing with side quests, then it can also offer fully unconstrained questing with the main story quests.

For example, the NERO quests require eavesdropping only. You can’t engage the enemy at all and you cannot be spotted. Why? This is insipid. There is absolutely no reason why I can’t choose to engage this enemy and take out those who get in my way. If I can take out random ghouls all over the place, I can take out the NERO guards as I see fit. Again, insipid.

Yet, when you go to burn the nests (side quest), you can choose exactly how you want to do this quest, though you will have to use molotovs to burn the nests. But, if you choose to take out every single ghoul, that’s your choice. How you choose to take them out is also your choice. You can sneaky-sneak up behind them and use your boot knife or you can pull out your favorite pistol and gun them down. You can even stand on a ridge and sniper them. Again, your choice.

With NERO agents, you’re given some weak story context about them wearing Kevlar. Hello, Kevlar doesn’t cover every exposed portion of their body. This is a virus laden apocalypse, their Kevlar is probably damaged. Yet, no. The game prevents pulling out the weapon to even try. Kevlar also can’t stop damage from grenade or fire based weapons.

If side quests can offer the flexibility of choice for how to complete them, then the main quests need to also offer this same level of flexibility. As I said, these main quests are too artificially constrained to specific tasks and objectives, deciding for the gamer in advance how to complete it. For the main quests, there is only one correct path, all other paths lead to failure.

Repetitive

With all of the above stated, the game is highly repetitive, main or side quests. Once you do about 10 quests of any form, you’ll find yourself repeating them over and over… such as burning nests. This activity is always the same, the only thing that varies is where the nests are located, which locating them can sometimes be the only challenge. Being an errand-boy is also one that becomes repetitive. Indeed, you’ll even find yourself performing similar quests in the same town multiple times. Yes, it gets old.

Most games which offer quests do have a repetitive nature, but Days Gone is overly repetitive. Not only do all of the enemies look identical, they are identical, particularly the ghouls. To make money in this game, for example, you have to hunt ghouls or animals and collect meat or souvenirs. These items can be sold to faction merchants for credit in that particular faction.

This money can be then used to buy weapons, supplies and bike parts depending on which of the 3 factions you visit. Once you embark on the chore of hunting ghouls, it’s very, very repetitive and not much in the way of fun. The ghouls themselves have specific attack types which are easily avoided once you understand their inane strategy. The same can be said of most enemies in the game, not just ghouls.

The one type of attack that you cannot avoid is being clothes-lined or sniper ambushed. By the time you see either, they’ve already pulled the bike out from under you and sent it to 0% repair land. Again, these ambushes are both predictable and identical each and every time. The part that isn’t predictable is where the ambush is located. The game randomly spawns them in trees or in places you can’t see. Because there’s no warning system, it can be almost impossible to avoid being ambushed. Yes, there are flashing question marks on the map (?), but these sometimes appear without any warning.

Gas and Missions

This game is also, unfortunately, terribly inconsistent with gas usage while in missions. Some missions don’t use any gas at all. Some rely on the gas that’s in your tank and will run it out. You have no idea which mission uses gas and which doesn’t… that is until after the mission starts. This is probably one of the most ridiculous inconsistencies in this game.

Either all missions need to use gas or none need to use it. Having some require it and some not and not knowing which is which makes me again want to break the game disk in half.

This inconsistency is probably one of the more egregious problems in this game and is a serious enough problem that has made me want to rage quit this turd of a game several times. Gas isn’t something you can find easily or quickly. If you’re going to toss me into a bike chase to take down some random NPC, then you damned well better make sure gas isn’t consumed during the chase.

If gas were readily available all over the place in this game or if you could carry extra gas in a can on your bike, I wouldn’t rail so hard against this problem. However, gas is very difficult to quickly find in this game. It’s even more ridiculous that you also can’t carry spare gas on your bike. It’s worse that you can’t drive more than about 2-5 minutes before the tank is empty… that’s just overly stupid.

Again, if you’re setting me up for a chase, then the gas consumption needs to halt for the duration of the chase. There’s simply no time to take a detour to stop and fill the bike up in the middle of the chase. That just doesn’t work. Attempting to locate gas during a bike chase will end that chase in failure. It’s the same problem as running out of ammo. You can’t carry spare ammo with you or on your bike. You’re forced to go to a merchant or hunt for a cop car and spend time cracking it open to raid the trunk. Ammo is another item that’s not easily found simply lying about. It can only be found in very specific locations throughout the game and it takes way too much time to find it. Invariably, the chase will take you in some direction no where near a gas pump or any ammo.

Overall

This game is trite and cliché. The play value is crap. The quests are uninspired. The game is repetitive and insipid. The game is not thoughtfully designed for either functionality or fun. There’s really very little redeeming about Days Gone other than its very pretty rendering engine. I feel sorry for the graphics and map designers. They spent a lot of time and effort to make the game seem very realistic. Unfortunately, the game mechanic designers completely failed the graphics guys. The game’s mechanics are horrible, insipid, repetitive and, at times, unplayable. The story is even worse to the point of being unengaging. Why should we care about these people, Bend?

Graphics: 9.5 out of 10
Audio: 8.5 out of 10
Combat: 3.5 out of 10
Bike Combat: 2.5 out of 10
Main Story Quests: 2.5 out of 10
Side Quests: 7 out of 10
Overall: 1.5 out of 10

Recommendation: Rent only. Do not buy this absolute turd of a game.

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Game Review: Control

Posted in video game design, video gaming by commorancy on February 12, 2021

505 Studio’s Control is game that seems like it should have been a good game. Unfortunately, it’s an average third person shooter with a lot of problematic game design elements sporting one almost redeeming concept. Let’s explore.

What kind of Game is it?

Control is a game about, well, control of sorts. Not so much the control you might expect, but the control that the game designers want you to come to know. Basically, your player character, Jesse, is thrown into a world of objects dubbed O.o.P. or Objects of Power. These are everyday objects that contain a supernatural force. In this sense, the game ripped off Friday the 13th The Series and Warehouse 13. Both of these TV series revolved everyday objects imbued with a supernatural element that, if harnessed, would typically lead to wanton destruction.

In this same vein, the game world in Control has this same problem. These everyday power objects not only allow people to harness the supernatural forces within, these objects bestow unique abilities upon the bearer. However, in those aforementioned TV series, their objects not only gave the person a supernatural ability, it typically sapped the good out of the person leaving only evil behind. In this video game, this object situation does not similarly exist. The player character remains in full control of their faculties and remains sane and able to ward off any evil that may be part of the object.

As you might surmise, as you progress and find more and more power objects, the player character grows in strength and abilities. That’s how the skill tree opens and progresses. The game is much like other similar superhero games like the Infamous series, The Darkness series and, to a lesser extent, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. Basically, as you find and gain abilities, your character’s strength grows. It’s obvious that this setup is leading to a final boss level where you’ll have to close out the game using many, if not all of the character’s abilities to defeat that final boss. It’s a fairly standard and cliché setup for a video game.

Story

The story in this game is mostly utilitarian. It primarily exists for the purpose of creating this video game. The story is essentially there to support the character’s gaining of new abilities, not the other way around. The character finds herself in a building called the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC)… it’s this video game’s equivalent of the FBI or CIA… with the added twist of also investigating all things of a supernatural nature. This situation she finds herself in affords her new abilities along the way. Though, she already has one ability that she’s already gained as a result of exposure to a power object when she and her brother were both kids.

Now, Jesse finds herself confronting the very outfit that kidnapped her brother, but at the same time becoming the FBC’s savior because the building has somehow gone completely out of control… which, this story setup is probably predictably obvious.

The first object of power that Jesse finds (well, technically the second) is a gun which now affords her protection. There’s nothing really very special about this object of power other than it’s a gun. I was a little disappointed to find the game developers offering up the weakest of all power objects as the first that she finds. I mean, what’s the point in finding an object of power if it doesn’t somehow confer a new supernatural ability? No, instead we find a gun that’s just a gun. It shoots bullets, but other than that it doesn’t do much in the way of anything else. It’s not even a very powerful weapon. It’s simply a pistol. So far, the game is starting off weak.

Abilities

As the game progresses, Jesse gains more and newer powers and abilities. The difficulty is that this is a slow row to hoe. Meaning, this game is about as slow burn as it gets. Don’t expect to get many abilities very fast at all. They definitely come to Jesse at a very, very slow pace.

Still, her abilities and powers grow as she slowly finds the objects to help her improve her situation with “The Hiss”. As I said above, the building itself has gone out of control. Most of the people in the building are floating catatonic many feet above the ground. These unfortunate people are under the control of what Jesse dubs, “The Hiss”. It’s basically a form of mind control that forces people into this catatonic floating state. Jesse and any who are wearing a Hedron Resonance Amplifier (HRA) can avoid becoming a casualty of “The Hiss”.

As Jesse progresses into the game and into the building, she finds all sorts of departments investigating all sorts of paranormal activities, including ESP, telekinesis, mind control and so on. Unfortunately, the game throws all of this information at you, but Jesse makes no comments on any of it. It’s like she’s simply expecting to see all of this stuff as she makes her way through the Bureau of Control building. Nope, to her it’s not a surprise at all. Yet, to the player, the questions all remain open as the story addresses none of this.

Control Points

As Jesse makes her way through this labyrinthine maze of a building, she finds red circular zones with 3 parabolic dishes aiming at the center. These control points, once “cleansed”, allow Jesse to fast travel to these points in the building. As a game mechanic, fast travel points are convenient. For the game’s story, this whole system feels contrived. Regardless, the control points not only allow Jesse to straighten out screwed up parts of the building through “cleansing”, it allows her to use these points to move around the building more easily… which is needed in this convoluted design of a building.

Puzzles

As with many games of this nature, Jesse’s challenges sometimes involve cryptic puzzles to be solved. This means working out how to solve the puzzle, sometimes using abilities, sometimes not. For example, one puzzle involves getting punchcards into the correct order in each terminal of five total terminals. Once done, the machine dependent on the correct order of cards inserted into the terminals can then be started. Of course, once started, the machine fails leading Jesse to yet another area of the building to get something else.

When Jesse isn’t solving puzzles, she’s fighting enemies, she’s conversing with an NPC or she’s running around in the building. Many of Jesse’s quests involve either fetching something, doing something for someone or attacking enemies or being attacked.

Combat

Since we were just talking about this very topic, let’s expand on it. Combat is part of any first or third person shooter; otherwise, it’s not a shooter. The enemies in this game are The Hiss, a nebulous set of voices that invade a person and can eventually possess that person and have them do things, including fight. All of the enemies in the game are former FBC officers who have been possessed or transformed by The Hiss. The Hiss is a nebulous enemy who lives in an alternate dimension from the game’s 3D human inhabited world. This supernatural force can reach through into the “real” world and control humans. The Hiss doesn’t seem to have any special agenda other than taking up arms against the game’s protagonist… at least, none that the game has let the gamer in on.

In other words, The Hiss is pretty much like The Flood in the Halo series. It’s a nebulous enemy who uses humans to possess and propagate itself into the real world. Unfortunately, like The Flood in Halo, possessing a human corrupts and transfigures the human into unrecognizable creatures that afford only basic life or death instincts… much like The Flood in Halo.

Jesse uses her ever evolving supernatural abilities and supernatural weapons to dispatch these unwanted abominations. That’s where the player comes in.

The combat is fairly straightforward, but with some glaring problems. The game strongly recommends using manual aiming throughout the game. However, in the options panel, there is an aim assist mode. If you enable this mode, the game, again, strongly recommends playing the game through with this mode off making some nebulous statement about being rewarded for doing so.

Okay, so I tried to do this for a few levels. However, what became painfully obvious is that the over sensitive camera movement makes manual aiming in this game next to impossible. Most games suffer from this same design flaw, but this super sensitive movement is way more pronounced in Control than most games I’ve played. This makes manual aiming a chore. I could live with this chore, however, were it not for the next additional glaring flaw.

Enemies in Control have near perfect aim every single shot even when hidden behind obstructions. While my bullets miss enemies when I’m shooting at them with the reticle directly over the top of them, enemy bullets connect almost instantly. Wait, it gets worse.

Enemies can shoot Jesse in the head from behind objects with perfect aim and take nearly 99% of her health, sometimes all of it, in one shot. Yet, Jesse’s shots do maybe 10% damage to an enemy even in the head. The enemy’s perfect aim when combined with being so overpowered make the game a joke to play. This game isn’t supposed to be another Dark Souls, which Dark Souls is intentionally designed with combat so difficult so as to make you throw the controller across the room on occasion.

It’s one thing when game developers attempt to make enemies operate at about the same damage level as the player. It’s another when developers clearly don’t give two shits about this and set the enemies as one-shot player kills, yet can absorb every bullet in the player’s gun and still not die. Worse, enemies can literally appear out of thin air, standing right next to you and then summarily execute Jesse in one hit. It’s so absurd that you have to laugh to keep from throwing the controller at the screen.

As a result, I enabled aim-assist. If the game is going to cheat by making enemies so overpowered they can kill Jesse in one shot, it was only fair that Jesse obtains a similar advantage. There’s nothing worse than seeing the death screen in a game over and over and over. It gets worse again.

Death Mechanic

If Jesse falls in battle, the game reloads Jesse back to the closest save point. Because save points can be quite far away from where you were playing, that forces you to spend time sprinting all the way back to that point again. It’s not only annoying, it’s an incredible time waste. It can sometimes even become a challenge to get back there if it requires using lifts or yet more combat to get back there. Therefore, doing something to help mitigate the death loading screen and being forced back to the load point is well worth it. This is part of the reason I decided to enable aim-assist from the beginning.

While I’m okay with a small death penalty, such as consuming points that could be used towards upgrades, we don’t need multiple different penalties. Penalties such as this game has:

  1. Loss of points that can be used towards upgrades
  2. Being forced back to closest save point
  3. Loss of current battle in progress
  4. Confusion over where you end up after respawning

Thankfully, the game doesn’t lose the progress or force you to start everything over from scratch after Jesse dies, but you must determine where you are, figure out where you were and then spend time traversing back over there. You might even run into more Hiss along the way just to get back to where Jesse fell.

It’s not the worst death mechanic in a game, but it’s pretty close to it. Control will lose points for its weak death + respawn mechanic.

Graphics

One shining spot of this game is its world lighting, background objects and atmospherics. It has some of the best atmospherics I’ve seen in a game. It gives the world depth and it serves to give the office space a sense of realism. While the lighting doesn’t work 100% in every situation, there are some lighting conditions that are exceptional. This is one of the shining points in this game, but not the sparkle in this game… that’s coming below. Unfortunately, a lot of game developers put a lot of effort into choosing an engine that offers a substantial level of lighting realism, but then forget to put that same level of effort into the character models.

Speaking of character models, the 3D character models are average in this game, specifically the main character, Jesse. However, even the supporting character models lack. If you want to see character models that look genuinely and stunningly real, you need to look at the Call of Duty series. The character models in Call of Duty are some of the most outstanding and realistic models I’ve yet seen in a game. Sure, even those models look video gamey as all 3D models ultimately do, but they’re probably the closest to using a human model as I’ve seen from a 3D game character. Unfortunately in Control, Jesse (and the rest) aren’t the greatest of 3D models. You can even see that depending on the lighting, the character models can look okay or they can look flat, dull and unconvincing. The hands are particularly bad. It’s like playing a game using Barbie and Ken dolls.

Audio

Unlike many video games which offer the player character no voice, this game does give Jesse, the game’s protagonist, a solid voice. Not only does Jesse have a voice to speak to other characters in the game, this character also has thoughts of her own. It’s a refreshing and welcome change to see a game developer voice the protagonist and give them a backstory that unfolds as we’re traversing through the narrative. Unfortunately, the musical audio portion doesn’t fare as well. The music chosen is not inspiring or powerful. If anything, I’d use the word utilitarian. The music serves its purpose to cue the player into skirmishes, but that’s about as great as it gets. There’s just nothing much inspiring about the music included in this game. There is one exception and that’s discussed below.

Problems

As with most games that have been released in the last two or three years, I find game developers more and more relying on cliché game tropes to carry the story. These tropes make game development easier because most game developers already have toolkits built which can insert these tropes right into the game. Tropes like the press and hold to interact. Tropes like dead enemies dropping health pickups. Tropes like enemies with perfect aim. However, if the tropes were the end of this game’s problems, I might not even mention them. Combined with a bunch of other problems, it just exacerbates Control’s overall problems.

Video games that rely on quests, particularly where the game can carry multiple quests at the same time, have learned to mark not only on the map where the quest destination is, but also mark on the player’s directional HUD system which way to head to get to that destination. Unfortunately, Control does none of this. Not only does it fail to adequately alert the player where on the map is the destination is, it fails to offer a directional HUD or floating marker to lead you in the correct direction.

Instead, the player is forever fumbling his or her way to get to the destination. Sometimes the destination is so obscure and not marked, it’s impossible to find a way to get to it. This problem is compounded by the building’s convoluted and overly complex layout. I realize the building itself is a kind of extra-dimensional structure, able to rearrange itself at will. Regardless, the structure is overly complex requiring traversal of many stairs and small doors to move between and around areas.

Combine this with the fact that doors are level locked, the player has no way to know how to get into an area until you finally and magically hit upon the correct quest that drops the key in your lap.

Map

Yes, the map itself is also a problem. Unlike many games which choose to utilize a separate map screen, this game uses a map overlay. The map overlay obscures the screen itself, yet the screen stays live with the character able to move while the screen map marker moves. This is mostly a negative for the game. It’s great that you can see you’re heading in the correct direction, but because the screen is so overly obscured by the map, trying to traverse the interior of the building can be impossible with the map overlay open.

The only other game that has offered a similar map overly screen was Technomancer. Technomancer‘s game’s map overlay screen, however, chose not to obscure the gamer’s view of the game play field while still allowing the map to be visible. This meant you could leave the map open and traverse the map to your destination. If Control had chosen to allow visibility of the play field at all times, the game play experience with the map open would have been far, far better. As it is now, Control’s kludgy map overlay system is made worse by its failure to be useful other than for quick glances.

This map situation gets much worse. There are times where the map doesn’t even draw in. It’s just a bunch of question marks and words floating in space with no image underlay showing the room layout. You simply have to guess where the hell you are. Even worse, this undrawn map can stay like this for minutes at a time, sometimes eventually drawing in, sometimes not. It’s also weird that the map worked just fine 5 minutes ago, but just a few minutes later it’s not working. I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that a bug this functionally problematic has been allowed to exist in a 505 studio game over a year after release. Though, admittedly this game studio has had a very rough start with Death Stranding… a game that confused a lot of players, was too slow burn and afforded mixed critical reviews. Control also falls into this same boat, but for very different reasons.

Telekenesis (aka Launch)

Yes, this power also falls under a problem area of this game. In a game that allows you to pick up and throw objects, an accurate object targeting system is imperative. Unfortunately, that targeting system fails more often than it succeeds. For example, there’s a point in the game where you’re required to run through an obstacle course in around 60 seconds. As part of this course, you are required to pick up cube structures and throw them into wall plugs to activate them. Far too many times, the game will, instead of picking up the cube which is right under the reticle, it will yank ceiling or wall material down forcing you to send that flying and try again. Sometimes it will fail to grab the cube multiple times in a row using up the precious telekinesis power bar. You only get about 3 tries at this before running out of power and being forced into a slow recharge.

Even with the fastest recharge speed mods, you still have to wait 10-15 (seconds) for the bar to recharge ensuring that you fail the course. I don’t know how many times I had to run through that course before I was able to succeed simply because of this single stupid game design failure.

If you’re developer planning on including short duration timed activities, you need to make damned sure that the mechanics required to complete the course function reliably 100% of the time. Control really failed the gamer with this course. That’s not to say the course cannot be run and succeeded. It will, however, take many trial and error attempts until you can manage to get luck to line up properly with all of the kludgy game mechanics.

Ashtray Maze

Let’s get past all of these pesky problems. What I will say about this particular level is that this level is the payoff for the entire game. It should have been the final thing you do that ends the game. My guess is that this level was designed first. Some developer came up with this level idea which wowed everyone who played it and then a game was wrapped around this one level as a reason for this game to exist.

This puzzle level requires a special object of power to be obtained before it can be run. If you enter into the maze without this object of power, you can only run in circles. Once you have this object of power, the entire level opens up and boy is it impressive. The entire run is so precisely timed to the player that it’s like watching a music video. Yes, even the soundtrack on this level is awesome. As I said, impressive. This level is the sole reason to play Control and, while fleeting, the level is amazing to behold and is the single most impressive thing about this game. After I was done running the level, I was thinking that I want to do it again… it was that impressive.

Unfortunately, one outstanding level can’t redeem a mediocre third person shooter. But, nonetheless, the Ashtray Maze is definitely a must see (and hear) level. It’s too bad the rest of the game couldn’t have been quite so impressive.

Overall

Control is a game not about control, but about being controlled. It’s about, well, nothing much in particular or even too interesting to be honest. This game combines a lot of its not-so-subtle cues from a lot of different games series including Bioshock, Halo, Portal, Assassin’s Creed, Infamous Second Son and Half-Life. In fact, it feels like a mashup of the game series just mentioned. It feels way less original than it should and, thus, it ends up far less impressive overall. However, the developers had a gem of a concept in the Ashtray Maze that they simply squandered away, but which could have been used in many ways all throughout the game to bump up the playability and fun factor of Control.

For example, the silly and repetitive Oceanview Motel sections were not only intensely boring and repetitive, they were completely unnecessary. If those segments had been replaced each with slightly modified runs of the Ashtray Maze, this game could have been much, much better and way more satisifying. I could have done the Ashtray Maze run several times and loved running it every single time. Instead, we got saddled with the trite Oceanview Motel, which is insipid, uninspired, slow and unnecessary. Maybe 505 can learn from these mistakes when crafting the sequel to Control.

One final thing I’ll state is that this game has two endings. This information doesn’t at all spoil the game. However, know that it has a fake out ending and a real one. The fake out ending is still part of the game and there’s a small amount more gameplay (maybe 15-20 minutes) after it, but before you get to the real ending. I’m uncertain why 505 decided to add a fake out ending, particularly so close to the end, but they did. I thought I’d mention it so if you choose to play this game you don’t get caught off-guard thinking that the game ended early and abruptly and put the game away before completing Control.

Graphics: 8.5 out of 10
Sound: 8 out of 10
Game Control: 4 out of 10
Playability: 7 out of 10
Replay value: 1 out of 10
Overall: 4.5 out of 10 (an average third person shooter with only one redeeming level)

Game Review: Spider-Man

Posted in botch, video game, video game design by commorancy on September 8, 2018

SpiderMan2Here’s Randocity’s review of Sony’s 2018 Spider-Man (Insomniac Games) exclusively for the PS4. Unlike so many other game magazines, this review will be brutally honest. Unfortunately, other than photo mode, there’s not a lot to like here. This review will also be short and sweet and somewhat brutal. Let’s explore.

No Holds Barred

SpiderMan1To be perfectly fair, I wanted to like this game. I really did. Unfortunately, this game is one of the worst Spider-Man games I’ve ever played. The absolute worst Spider-Man game being Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Dimensions looked great, played like crap. Same problem here, well mostly. Not only is Spider-Man incredibly weak, he dies at the drop of the hat even on casual play. Dying wouldn’t be quite so bad if it didn’t take ages to reload the game. Absolutely worse, the whole game simply devolves into a button masher. This is not why I buy Spider-Man games. I buy Spider-Man games to swing around the city and occasionally get in brawls. I don’t want to spend 90% of my time brawling as a button masher. Basically, this game effing sucks rocks.

Controls

The controls are, in fact, most of the reason this game sucks. I’m all for web slinging fun, but this goes way beyond into craptacular territory. The first mission is practically impossible to complete, even on easy mode. The game simply doesn’t give you enough moves (or health) to take these guys out quickly. The AI on the enemies is frustrating and nonsensical. Worse, the controls make so many mistakes. When I try to get away from enemy, instead, the game chooses to perform a slide under which puts me right next to the enemy… the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do.

Focus

The “focus” game mechanic is entirely unnecessary, distracting and so lamely implemented that it actually prevents you from using it as intended. What is focus for? Healing. In fact, you gain focus so slowly, you can’t even use it to heal. There is no other way to heal other than spending focus. Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

SpiderMan5

What the hell is with healing through focus, anyway? Whose brilliantly crappy game mechanic idea was this? Just let Spider-Man heal naturally on his own. Don’t make me have to take action to heal him. If Spider-Man needs healing by external means, then put first aid kits around the levels and let me just automatically pick them up and apply them. This whole gaining Focus mechanic is so sloppily implemented, I don’t even know how the game designers thought it would be useful. Why not just use health pickups, you know, like practically every other game? Why throw in something so convoluted that it’s useless?

Distracting Game Mechanics

Here’s my biggest pet peeve with these distracting and unnecessary game mechanics. While I understand that Insomniac wanted something new to add to their repertoire of features, game designers should never implement a new game mechanic solely because it’s new. Instead, game mechanics must enhance the game, not detract from it. Why does the focus mechanism fail so badly? It fails because now you’re requiring gamers to watch the focus and health bars constantly. This means moving your eyes away from an ever changing play field of AI enemies.

In this game, even taking your eyes off of the, admittedly, poorly designed and unrealistic AI enemy combat moves, will see your health drop from 100 to 20 (or less) in one blow (even on easy mode). Ignoring the fact that Spider-Man is a superhero in the Marvel universe, has super strength and is super resistant to injury, there should never ever be a mechanic designed that forces the gamer to take his/her eyes off of the combat field and then manually apply health.

Instead, if you’re planning on forcing a health recovery system, then the health system should either auto-regenerate or self-apply at critically low levels. I shouldn’t have to monitor my character’s weak health and manually apply anything. Spider-Man is a superhero… a Marvel SUPERHERO! Treat him as such and at least give him some level of auto-health generation. Seriously, what is the point in manual application of health in this game? It is absolutely not a challenge, it’s just stupid design.

Web Slinging Cooldown

What was the point in this game mechanic? You have six bars of web action that when depleted means you can’t use your web to subdue any more enemies. No NO NO! Why is there an arbitrary count of how many times you can use your web? Again, this doesn’t make the game challenging, it makes the game stupid. If he has the ability to create web, then it should work 100% of the time or until he runs out of web solution. If you plan to add a game mechanic here, then make it a mechanic that sees him run out of web entirely and need to change his web canisters. At least, that’s realistic. Though, why even do that? This isn’t intended to be a simulation, it’s intended to be a superhero game. Just let Spider-Man sling webs infinitely. There’s no point in this web cooldown system at all.

Spider-Man is Weak

The other big problem I have with this game is that Spider-Man isn’t treated like a Marvel superhero at all. He’s like a random schmoe who picked up a costume and decided to be a vigilante. Not only does it take many blows on an enemy to finally knock them out, Spider-Man loses health at an incredibly rapid rate, even from just one bullet or one enemy punch. This is entirely ridiculous. He’s a Marvel superhero, not a random normal guy in a costume.

Insomniac treated this version of the Spider-Man character with all of the grace of a bull in a china shop, bumbling their developmental way through to a game that, in my opinion, barely resembles Spider-Man.

Photo Mode

The one and only one redeeming feature of this game is photo mode. If you’ve used photo mode on Assassin’s Creed Origins, then you’ll feel right at home in this one as photo mode looks and behaves nearly identical. This feature doesn’t make the game worth playing by a long shot. But, the composition tool does have some cool overlays (see the first image in this article), assuming you can actually play enough into the game to use these overlays in some real way.

Overall

My rating for this game is 3 out of 10. It needs a whole lot more developmental time and it needed better usability play testing. It’s not worth playing. If you must play it, then rent it from Redbox or rent it someplace else. Or, wait for it to get to $15 at Gamestop. Don’t waste your money buying this trite piece of Sony garbage unless you truly enjoy torturing yourself with really bad games. If Insomniac can push out patches that can address all of these identified problems (doubtful), then maybe this game might improve. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

For me, this game goes back to Gamestop as a trade-in. I’ll wait until the game drops in price which will have given Insomniac plenty of time to release more patches… not that that will improve this game. Though, I’m willing to give it a second shot much later in the future.

Graphics: 8 out of 10
Audio: 8 out of 10
Voice Acting: 8 out of 10
Gameplay: 2 out of 10 (repetitive, nothing new)
Combat: 1 out of 10 (enemies swarm in unrealistic ways, manual health application)
Overall: 2 out of 10 (rent only)

If this article helped you, please leave a comment below.

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How to fix: controllers won’t pair with PS4

Posted in repair, video game console by commorancy on July 19, 2018

Indemnification Disclaimer: By proceeding, you agree that the information contained herein is provided AS-IS with no warranty expressed or implied. You further agree that the article’s author and site owner are providing this information solely to aid in diagnosis and troubleshooting only. You agree that if you choose to undertake repair of your PS4 console, you assume all risk, liability, void warranty and damage. You agree that you (the reader) is solely responsible for any repair or replacement costs at your expense. The author of this article has made every effort to provide this information as accurately as possible. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless the site owner and article author from all claims due to your attempt(s) to repair your PS4 regardless of where the repair information was obtained or as a result of any article inaccuracies. Attempt repairs on your PS4 at your own risk. If you cannot agree to these terms for any reason, do not continue reading.


As a follow-on to my How to pair your PS4 controller wirelessly article, this one talks about a separate but related issue when a DualShock 4 controller refuses to pair or work wirelessly. Let’s explore.

Controller refuses to pair or work

You’ve walked through the steps in the Randocity article How to pair your PS4 controller wirelessly and this doesn’t work. The trouble may not be with your DS4 controller. Start by testing with a second controller. If the second controller also won’t work or pair, this trouble may not be with your controllers.

Instead, you’ll need to look at the possibility the problem is with your PS4. These symptoms include that any DS4 controller won’t work wirelessly and/or that the controller must be extremely close to the unit. This article covers the case when no DS4 controller pairs or works with your PS4. If you find that one controller works, but another one doesn’t, that isn’t the problem described here.

The Problem

There’s a small wire that leads from the WiFi controller to the WiFi antenna in the PS4’s case. On the antenna, the exposed portion of the end of the wire must bridge a small gap between the antenna sides. This small bridged gap is handled by the wire itself with a small blob of solder. If the unit is bumped, jostled or simply gets hot enough, the wire may come loose between the gap. This can cause the WiFi to work sporadically or not at all.

The Solution

Thankfully, there is a fix for this. The ifixit.com site has a reasonable repair guide to walk you through how to fix it.

Before you begin, if your PS4 is still under warranty or you don’t feel comfortable doing repair work, you should contact Sony about repairing this problem to prevent voiding your warranty or damaging your PS4.

Tools you’re going to need

Steps to Fix the WiFi Antenna

  1. Open your PS4 console by removing the rear stickers to expose screw(s), then unscrew screws and lift top off
  2. After top is open, locate screws for the power supply and unscrew them placing the screws aside separately
  3. Carefully unscrew and lift out the power supply (avoid stress on any cables) to expose the antenna wire connector
  4. Disconnect the WiFi antenna wire from the board using ESD-safe tweezers by pulling straight up
  5. Pull the now loose wire free from the chassis, then…
  6. Follow the wire to locate the WiFi antenna in the corner of the PS4
  7. Unscrew and take out the WiFi antenna being careful not to pull the wire loose
  8. Identify the gap between the antenna segments looking for two solder points
  9. Make sure that the antenna wire is long enough to span the gap
  10. Pull the wire to bridge the gap between both both solder points
  11. Solder the wire down on both sides of the gap making sure the antenna wire spans the gap
  12. Reassemble the PS4 in reverse being sure to thread the WiFi wire back through where it was and reconnecting it

For a follow-along visual reference, visit the ifixit.com guide or download the PDF:

The Design Problem

The small gap between the two sides of the antenna is spanned by the wire itself. This wire is fairly fragile and is prone to easily coming loose. The wire may come loose for many reasons. It could be because of an assembly problem. It could be because the solder came loose on its own or from heat buildup. It could be that simply jostling the unit worked it loose. It could be that you dropped the PS4. Whatever the problem, it’s a relatively easy fix.

Notes

The follow-along guide misses a few tools needed for this repair. Please see the above for the full tool reference you will need before beginning. Also, the follow along guide shows pliers being used to pull the antenna loose from the board. Don’t do this! Use ESD-safe tweezers (included with the soldering iron kit listed above or purchase separately) to properly disconnect this wire from the board.

If you don’t feel comfortable opening up your PS4 or performing this procedure, then you should contact Sony to discuss having this repair completed by a Sony repair center. If your PS4 is under warranty, I’d suggest having Sony repair this problem to avoid voiding your warranty by opening the unit.

If you have any questions about this guide, please leave a comment below.

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How to use your PS4’s DS4 controller on Windows

Posted in howto, video game, windows by commorancy on May 30, 2018

HowToBadgeIn a follow-up to the Randocity article How to pair your PS4 controller wirelessly, this article is an extension to explain how to pair a DualShock 4 controller to Windows via Bluetooth. Since that pairing article shows you how to pair a DS4, this article will show you how to make use of it on Windows.

DS4Windows

You’ll need to download DS4Windows for your system. Note that there are two releases of DS4Windows. One by Jay2Kings which has been abandoned and a newer fork being handled by Ryochan4. You’ll want to get this newer version from Ryochan4. This version is being updated constantly.

Requirements

  • Windows 7 or newer
  • Microsoft .NET 4.5.2 or higher (needed to unzip the driver and for macros to work properly)
  • SCP Virtual Bus Driver (Downloaded & Installed with DS4Windows)
  • Microsoft 360 Driver (link inside DS4Windows, already installed on Windows 7 SP1 and higher or if you’ve used a 360 controller before)
  • Sony DualShock 4 (This should be obvious)
  • Micro USB cable
  • (Optional) Bluetooth 2.1+, via adapter or built in pc (My recommendation) (Toshiba’s bluetooth adapters currently do not work)

Xbox 360 Controller Emulation

This driver works by latching onto the Xbox 360 controller emulation system that’s available as an add-on in Windows 7 or newer. As you’ll note, you’ll need to install the Microsoft 360 Driver if you’ve never used a 360 controller on Windows. If you have previously used a 360 controller or you are using Windows 8 or above, you can skip that installation step.

Downloading DS4Windows

To download the latest version of DS4Windows click through to this link:

Choose the top most release number. As I write this article, that number is version 1.4.119. However, if you’re reading this 6 months from now or later, it will likely have changed. If you’re running 64 bit Windows, download the x64 version. If you’re running 32 bit Windows, choose the x86 version.

After you download it, you’ll extract out the zip file which contains the following files:

filelist

From here, double-click the DS4Windows application icon. Note, Windows may warn you that this application is from an unknown developer, be sure to click ‘Run Anyway’. There’s no way around this issue because this developer has chosen not to code sign this application.

Once you run DS4Windows, you should see a window that looks like this:

ds4windows_installer

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Install the DS4 Driver — Click the Button highlighted in red

step1

Step 2: Install the 360 driver (only needed if Windows 7 or below). Skip this step on Windows 10.

step2

Step 3: Connect your DS4 Controller

step3

From here, you’ll need to choose if you’re going to use this controller via USB cable or via Bluetooth. If you have a USB cable, then follow the instructions at the top of the red box. If you intend to use the controller wirelessly, then follow the (optional) Bluetooth instructions at the bottom of the window above.

If you’ve chosen Bluetooth, then change settings by clicking the ‘Bluetooth Settings’ button and connect the controller to Windows through Windows’s control panel settings. Once you click on Bluetooth Settings, you should see a window appear like:

bt_settings

Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your computer. Then, click add a new device. From here you should see a window like so:

btdevices

Click on Bluetooth type devices and make sure the controller is in pairing mode. It should show up as ‘Wireless Controller’. Select it and it will pair. After this, DS4Windows will ensure the proper drivers are loaded for this controller. You’ll see a few notifications pop up regarding installation of various controller drivers for this newly found controller.

Step 4 — Finished

step4

Once that’s all complete, you’ll see the DS4Windows main window now looks like this and contains your new controller:

ds4_windows

Your controller’s ID will be different than mine. Note, like the PS4, you can only connect a maximum of 4 controllers using this tool.

Using your new DS4 controller on Windows

After you get your controller set up to this point, you’ll need to select and/or create a profile. A profile maps the controller’s buttons and joysticks to actions on Windows (or a specific game). When you click on the Profiles tab across the top of the window, you can create new profiles or import existing profiles that you’ve downloaded.

I’m still on the lookout for a high quality archive of profiles for specific games. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet found any. For the time being, you’ll need to create your own. Setting up profiles goes beyond the scope of this installation tutorial. However, I will leave you with a few YouTube videos to get you started.

Note, the above video does not have sound.

 

Jump to 6:53 in the above video to begin the mapping setup tutorial.

Profiles

If I manage to find any preexisting game profiles, I will create a list below of their locations. If you have a specific game that needs a profile, please leave a comment below and I will attempt to locate a profile for you. Note, however, I can’t create any profiles where I don’t have the game installed. The best I can do is look for someone who has already created a profile and point you there.

Request for Profiles Bounty

For all readers, I have a request. If you have any existing DS4Windows profiles that you have successfully used on a game, please contact me. If you’re willing, I’d like to create an archive of your DS4Windows profile(s) here on Randocity. For every profile you upload, I will list your name in credit to the profile.

Now, here’s the challenge. To get this DS4Windows archive started, the first person who uploads 10 functional DS4Windows popular game profiles to this archive will receive a new Sony Dual Shock 4 controller as bounty. This offer is good throughout the world, but void where prohibited. This bounty is valid through December 31, 2018. All entries must be received before January 1, 2019. To submit your entries, leave a comment below or use the Randocity contact form. Be sure to use your contact email address in your WordPress account so I can see it to contact you. Do not leave your email address in the actual comment. Note, this bounty is separate from the 500 million limited edition controller giveaway on a separate article… which means you have the possibility of receiving 2 controllers if you submit 10 functional DS4Windows profiles here in addition to entering that giveaway.

As always, if this article is helpful to you, please leave a comment below. If you like what Randocity offers, please click the Follow button in the upper right corner to receive notification of new Randocity articles.

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How much data does it take to update my PS4 or Xbox One or Switch?

Posted in computers, updates, video game console by commorancy on May 10, 2018

It seems this is a common question regarding the most recent gaming consoles. Let’s explore.

Reasons?

  • If the reason you are asking this question is because you’re concerned with data usage on your Internet connection or if your connection is very slow, you’ll find that this answer will likely not satisfy you. However, please keep reading.
  • If the reason you are asking this question is because you want to predict the amount of data more precisely, then skip down to the ‘Offline Updates’ section below.
  • If the reason you are asking this question is because you’re simply curious, then please keep reading.

Xbox One, PS4 and Switch Update sizes

The PS4, Xbox One and Switch periodically patch and update their console operating systems for maximum performance, to squash bugs and to improve features. However, this process is unpredictable and can cause folks who are on metered Internet connections no end of frustration.

How much data will it need to update?

There is no way to know … let’s pause to soak this in …

How much data is needed is entirely dependent on how recently you’ve upgraded your console. For example, if you’ve kept your console up to date all along the way, the next update will only be sized whatever the newest update is. With that said, there’s no way to gauge even that size in advance. Not Microsoft, not Sony and not Nintendo publish their update sizes in advance. They are the size they are. If it fixes only a small set of things, it could be 50-100 megabytes. If it’s a full blown point release (5.0 to 5.1), it could be several gigabytes in size. If it’s a smaller release, it could be 1GB.

If your console is way out of date (i.e., if you last turned it on 6 months ago), your console will have some catching up to do. This means that your update may be larger than someone who updates their console every new update. This means that if the base update is 1GB, you might have another 1GB of catch up before the newest update can be applied. This catch-up update system applies primarily to the Xbox One and not to the PS4 or Switch.

Xbox One vs PS4 vs Switch Update Conventions

Sony and Nintendo both choose a bit more of an one-size-fits-all update process when compared to Microsoft. Because of this, we’ll discuss the Xbox One first. Since the Xbox One is based, in part, on Windows 10, it follows the same update conventions as Windows 10. However, because the Xbox One also uses other embedded OSes to drive other parts of the console, those pieces may also require separate updates of varying sizes. This means that for the Xbox One to update, it has a process that scans the system for currently installed software versions, then proceeds to download everything needed to bring all of those components up to date.

Sony and Nintendo, on the other hand, don’t seem to follow this same convention. Instead, the Switch and PS4 typically offer only point-release updates. This means that everyone gets the same update at the same time in one big package. In this way, it’s more like an iPhone update.

For full point-release updates, the Xbox One also works this same way. For interim updates, it all depends on what Microsoft chooses to send out compared to what’s already on your Xbox One. This means that the Xbox One can update more frequently than the PS4 by keeping underlying individual components updated more frequently if they so choose. This is why the Xbox One can offer weekly updates where the PS4 and the Switch typically offer only quarterly or, at least, much less frequent updates.

Size of Updates

If you want to know the size of a specific update, you have to begin the update process. This works the same on the PS4, the Xbox One or the Switch. This means you have to kick off the update. Once you do this, the download progress bar will show you the size of the download. This is the only way to know how big the update is directly on the console.

However, both the PS4 and the Xbox One allow you to download your updates manually via a web browser (PC or Mac). You can then format a memory stick, copy the files to USB and restart the console in a specific way to apply the updates. This manual process still requires you to download the updates in full and, thus, uses the same bandwidth as performing this action on the console. This process requires you to also have a sufficiently sized and properly formatted USB memory stick. For updating the PS4, the memory stick must be formatted exFAT or FAT32. For updating the Xbox One, it must be formatted NTFS. The Nintendo Switch doesn’t provide offline updates.

Cancelling Updates in Progress

The Xbox One allows you to cancel the current system update in progress by unplugging the lan and/or disconnecting WiFi. Then turning off the console. When the console starts up without networking, you can continue to play games on your console, but you will not be able to use Xbox Live because of the lack of networking.

Once you plug the network back in, the system will again attempt to update. Or, you can perform an offline update with the Xbox One console offline. See Offline Updates just below.

You can also stop the PS4 download process by going to Notifications, selecting the download, press the X button and select ‘Cancel and Delete’ or ‘Pause’. Note, this feature is available on 5.x or newer PS4 version. If your PS4 version is super old, you may not have this option in the Notifications area. You will also need to go into settings (Xbox One or PS4) and disable automatic updates otherwise it could download these without you seeing it.

How to disable automatic updates:

With that said, you cannot stop system updates on the Nintendo Switch once they have begun. Nintendo’s downloads are usually relatively small anyway. Trying to catch them in progress and stop them may be near impossible. It’s easier to follow the guides above and prevent them from auto-downloading.

Also note, any of the consoles may still warn you that an update is available and prompt you to update your console even if you have disabled automatic software downloads.

*This setting on the Nintendo Switch may exclude firmware updates, your mileage may vary.

Offline Updates

Xbox One

The Xbox One allows you to update your system offline using a Windows PC. This type of update is not easily possible with a Mac. Mac computers don’t natively support formatting or reading NTFS properly, but there are tools you can use (Tuxera NTFS for Mac).

To use the Offline System Update, you’ll need:

  • A Windows-based PC with an Internet connection and a USB port.
  • A USB flash drive with a minimum 4 GB of space formatted as NTFS.

Most USB flash drives come formatted as FAT32 and will have to be reformatted to NTFS. Note that formatting a USB flash drive for this procedure will erase all files on it. Back up or transfer any files on your flash drive before you format the drive. For information about how to format a USB flash drive to NTFS using a PC, see How to format a flash drive to NTFS on Windows.

  1. Plug your USB flash drive into a USB port on your computer.
  2. Open the Offline System Update file OSU1.
  3. Click Save to save the console update .zip file to your computer.
  4. Unzip the file by right-clicking on the file and selecting Extract all from the pop-up menu.
  5. Copy the $SystemUpdate file from the .zip file to your flash drive.
    Note The files should be copied to the root directory, and there shouldn’t be any other files on the flash drive.
  6. Unplug the USB flash drive from your computer.

PlayStation 4

You can also update your PS4 console offline using Sony’s system updates. Here’s the procedure for PS4 offline updates. Note, the USB memory stick must be formatted either exFAT or FAT32. The PS4 doesn’t support any other types of stick formats. This means, if you buy a USB stick intended to be used on Windows, you will need to reformat it properly before you can use it on the PS4.

Update using a computer

For the standard update procedure, follow the steps below.

The following things are needed to perform the update:

  • PlayStation®4 system
  • Computer connected to the Internet
  • USB storage device, such as a USB* flash drive
  • There must be approximately 460 MB of free space.
    • On the USB storage device, create folders for saving the update file. Using a computer, create a folder named “PS4”. Inside that folder, create another folder named “UPDATE”.
      PC Update
    • Download the update file, and save it in the “UPDATE” folder you created in step 1. Save the file with the file name “PS4UPDATE.PUP”.
      Download Now Click to start the download.
    • Connect the USB storage device to your PS4™ system, and then from the function screen, select Settings (Settings) > [System Software Update].
      Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the update.
  • If your PS4™ system does not recognize the update file, check that the folder names and file name are correct. Enter the folder names and file name in single-byte characters using uppercase letters.

Nintendo Switch Updates

Nintendo doesn’t offer offline updates at all. The Nintendo Switch only supports Internet updates. There is currently no way to download or update your Switch via USB stick or SD card. The Nintendo Switch is the newest of the consoles, so it’s possible that Nintendo could offer an offline update mechanism some time in the future. However, knowing Nintendo, don’t hold you breath for this feature.

Offline Updates are Point Release Only

These offline update processes apply point-release updates only and not interim updates. Interim updates must still be applied directly from the console. Interim updates scan your system, find what’s needed, then download the patches. This can only be performed on the console. This means you could find that after installing a point release, the Xbox One may still require an additional update or two.

Updates and Internet Connectivity

Game consoles require updates to keep them current. The primary reason for most updates is to keep yours and your friend’s games in sync when playing multiplayer games. This prevents you from having a network edge over another player. When all game consoles are running the same version, all multiplayer activities are on the same playing field.

For this reason, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network (PSN) require all users to update to use networking features. If you declined or postpone any updates, both the Xbox One and the PS4 will deny you access to networking features. You must update both the console and the games to continue using networking.

If you don’t intend to use the network features such as multiplayer or leader boards, then you don’t need to worry about this. However, if you’re not using the networking features, then there’s no reason to buy Xbox Live or PSN. So far, Nintendo doesn’t yet offer a network capable of multiplayer gaming like Xbox Live or PSN, but as soon as they do I’m quite sure they will enforce the same requirements.

Pushing off Updates

While you can postpone updates to your console, it’s not always the best idea. I get that some people are on metered networking connections and can’t afford to download 20GB sized updates. But, at the same time, this is how consoles work. If you’re looking for a console that supports offline updates, then you’ll want to look at the PS4 or the Xbox One. You might want to skip the Switch if this is a show stopper for you.

As we move into the future, these consoles will continue to assume more and more connectivity is always available. Don’t be surprised to find that both the Xbox One and PS4 discontinue their offline update feature at some point in the future.

Though, Sony will still need to provide a way to install the operating system when a hard drive is replaced. However, that won’t help you with updating your console offline.

If you have a reason to want to know your download sizes more precisely, other than what I mention above, please leave a comment below and let me know.

↩︎

Game Review: Resident Evil 7 Demo

Posted in video game design, video gaming by commorancy on June 20, 2016

While I realize this is a only demo and may not resemble the real game all that much, what I will say about it is, I’m not terribly fond of it overall. I’m hoping the game is far different from this. Let’s explore.

Story

Your character ends up stuck in a creepy old farmhouse and must figure out a way to get out of it. Along the way you find things that may or may not help your character. Can you actually get your character out of the house alive?

Game Mechanics

Whether or not you can actually get out of the house is not really the question. The question is, are the game mechanics good? First, it is a preliminary game demo. So, in that aspect, it’s a little dumbed down.

On the one hand, it is somewhat better than Resident Evil 5 and 6… meaning, there aren’t zombies running and jumping at your character at every step. On the other hand, there are no zombies at all. In fact, the entire house is devoid of enemies entirely (other than when you answer the phone or find the back door key and try to leave). And then, the enemy is a cut scene that you can’t fight. So, in effect, this is more or less a puzzle questing game… and not a very good one at that.

Second, the only redeeming factor is the video tape. Because watching the video tape is also player interactive, you can do things with the characters on the tape (in the past) that open things up for the player in the future. This is the one and only one cool gimmick about this demo, but it is so underused as a game gimmick that it’s almost hardly not worth mentioning.

Graphics

Plainly and of what you can see of them, the textures, wood, roaches, character models and environments are supremely well done. Unfortunately, you’re hindered by having to roam the house using a flashlight. This means you can only see what you can illuminate with the flashlight. Otherwise, it all ends up dark. It reminds me a little of the way that Bioshock was lit in terms of the dark undersea lighting that gets brighter as you approach walls and items. Not so much the textures, but the lighting concept. In some ways this works, but it gets old and tiring after about an hour of play. I was hoping the fuse box would have actually let me flip the lights on in the house. But no, the only thing the fuse box does is let you drop down the attic stairs. And, that’s just a little weird. In such a decrepit old farm house, why would the owners have installed a drop down electric set of stairs that lead to the attic? Doesn’t really make any sense.

Puzzles

Unfortunately, other than the video tape gimmick mentioned above, the puzzles are mostly weak. Worse, the puzzles are tied to successfully completing events. Meaning, unless you do a very specific thing in the house, you can’t progress to and find the next puzzle piece (i.e., it simply won’t appear). If you cannot figure out what the game wants you to do, you’re stuck. Too many games offer puzzles like this. Some puzzles are glaringly obvious what you need to do. Though in this game, many of the puzzles are so obscure that you can run around for hours and never figure it out. That doesn’t make a game fun, it makes it tedious.

Game Development / Demo / Beta Testing

The game devs have a whole lot of work ahead of them to get this game right. I’m assuming this demo was released to test the waters with gamers. RE4 was a spectacular achievement for the Resident Evil series. But, as much as RE4 was an achievement, RE5 and RE6 were not.

I’m one of those people who firmly believes, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”. In fact, I’ve been bitten one too many times with this series… both with RE5 and RE6. Shame on me. I won’t be bitten again. This is the reason I’m playing this demo. I was, in fact, hoping that this would have been another Leon game like RE4. After all, it’s been well long enough to finally get another Leon game.

Commentary

While Capcom seems to be on the right track with Resident Evil 7, assuming it can expand on this puzzle questing and video tape idea, I’m still very skeptical. This game has all of the hallmarks of tricking gamers into a decent opening puzzle level only to convert the game into yet another dual player zombie shooter (like RE5 and RE6 turned into) once you exit the house. If Capcom can keep this puzzle questing survival horror idea on-track throughout the entire game (throwing in some zombie apocalypse battles here and there), it might turn out to be a decent game. Unfortunately, it has a little too much of the telltale signs of converting into a completely different game once you leave the house. For this reason, I will wait until the game is fully released into the stores before I plop down $60 for this title. I simply don’t trust Capcom.

Though, I absolutely love the video tape idea of going back in time and opening doors, finding hidden secrets, leaving things behind, etc, for future characters to find and use. This is probably one of the freshest ideas in this game. Unfortunately, it’s way underused in this demo and I’m not certain exactly how much it could be used unless the main character carries around a camcorder and finds tapes along the way.

Can the Xbox One catch up to the PS4 this year?

Posted in business, video gaming by commorancy on August 21, 2015

ps4-system-imageblock-us-13jun14We all know that Sony’s PS4 has outsold the Xbox One fairly substantially. However, will moving into this holiday season help or hurt the Xbox One? Let’s explore.

Halo 5

In October, we will see the next installment of Halo 5 released. This is unusual in that this title usually releases in November. I’m assuming that Microsoft is attempting to gain an early head start in console sales. I’m also certain that Microsoft is hoping that Halo 5 (an exclusive Xbox One title) will push consoles off the shelves. The problem is, however, UltraHD 4K.

4K TVs and Consoles

With HDTVs rapidly dropping in price and especially 4K TVs (there are several sub $1000 models), this spells a big problem for console manufacturers. I’m sure it wasn’t expected to see prices of 4K TVs dropping this rapidly this soon. None of the Xbox One, PS4 or Wii U currently support 4K content or 4K TVs. This is shaping into a much bigger problem and is especially a problem for Microsoft and Sony. Without the ability to deliver 4K content to these sub $1000 4K TVs, many people are going to be hard pressed to justify the investment in a $500 console that doesn’t support 4K. So, not even Halo 5 may be able to budge many of those consoles off the shelves, at least not to existing Xbox One owners.

Personally, I’m not planning on investing in any new console systems until there’s 4K support. When Sony and Microsoft can finally get off their collective butts and release a 4K HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 2.2 console version, I will definitely consider replacing my existing consoles, but not until that happens.

Of course, I already own a PS4 and Xbox One. I got both day one, but I’ve recently bought a 4K TV. Barring Netflix and Amazon, there’s effectively no 4K content. Still, it does make my 1080p content look amazingly clear without all that annoying pixelation so common in 1080p TVs.

Console Purchasing and the Holidays

Because 4K TVs are now becoming more commonplace and because 1080p TVs will likely be mostly a distant memory in even just 2 years, it’s hard to justify a $500 expense only to replace it in 6 months or a year. It’s not worth it. Additionally, you can buy a video game at any time after it’s released, but it doesn’t have to be on day one. You can just as easily play Halo 5 in spring of 2016 as you can in the fall of 2015. Yes, there are a lot of day-oners out there (must have it the moment it’s released), but because of the deluge of titles in the fall, it’s easy to pick and choose which ones to leave for later. This means you can delay that console purchase or buying that game until the 4K version arrives.

Yes, Halo 5 will push some consoles off the shelves. But, those looking for a 4K version will likely wait. I’m definitely waiting for the console refresh from Sony and Microsoft. For whatever reason, both of these companies are taking their sweet time to provide this refresh. In fact, Sony should have pushed out this refresh as part of the fall game launch. Sony being at the forefront of the 4K revolution makes it ever more important for Sony to finally get this refresh out the door. It’s even more important to get this refresh out for holiday purchases even if we can’t take advantage of the 4K content yet. Though, I know that Sony’s video on demand services for use with the Sony 4K UltraHD Media Player already offers a very large number of 4K movies. There’s no reason not to get this technology into the PS4 and widen that audience. Not only will it widen the audience for their movie services, it also immediately widens their game playing audience. In this case, were Sony to release this 4K refresh faster than Microsoft, Sony would have tremendous advantage both in sales and in gaming.

Sales Advantage

It’s clear, which ever company gets out their 4K refresh faster, they will have a sales advantage. As I said, considering Sony’s involvement in 4K, it makes perfect sense for Sony to get this refresh out now.

I don’t believe even Halo 5 sales could argue with a Sony 4K hardware refresh. People would think twice about buying an Xbox One until Microsoft also provided a 4K Xbox One refresh themselves. Should Sony release first, it would push Sony’s PS4 much higher in sales numbers because many existing PS4 owners would immediately replace their existing PS4. I know I would. So, that means double sales. Sales to everyone who already has a PS4 and to those who don’t. Of course, this would happen with the Xbox One as well once their 4K refresh is available.

Though, should the Xbox One and PS4 4K edition release together, I would still buy the PS4 version first unless Microsoft released the Xbox One 4K version with a 4K 60Hz playable version of Halo 5. There is currently no franchise title that Sony owns that is that compelling. But, were Black Ops III or Fallout 4 to support 4K, I’d be hard pressed not to consider a 4K PS4.

I personally believe that Sony is currently more likely to release a 4K refresh sooner than Xbox One. Microsoft doesn’t embrace new technologies quickly, especially when Sony is one of the primary proponents of that new technology.

Ultra HD 4K Content

Today, there’s not much 4K content. The drought of 4K content is about as severe as California’s rainfall levels. This can all change with a console refresh. Consoles are quickly becoming the ubiquitous media outlet for the home, especially for children. With a console refresh from Sony, that immediately picks up a relatively large number of 4K movies. With the addition of developers taking advantage of 4K gaming, that opens up a huge new door (literally pixel-wise). While that number of pixels is immense, it offers a brand new immersive level of gaming that hasn’t yet been achieved. Yes, it requires producing much bigger content, but the games will be spectacular, the environments breathtaking and the realism levels achieved would be astounding.

The problem today is that most developers can’t even grasp 1080p. So, I do not expect 4K gaming any time soon. Perhaps from the Call of Duty brand and possibly from Microsoft’s Halo (if 343 can figure it out). But, smaller companies like Atlus and even larger ones like Bethesda struggle with high def gaming. If we can get one HD title out of a developer per year, I consider that a win. With Ultra HD 4K content, I’d expect it might even take 2 years per title. That would suck at not having a new game every year, but 4K is where we’re going and Sony, Microsoft, Bethesda, Ubisoft, EA, Square Enix and the rest would do best to take heed. Not only does gaming want 4K, we need it to move forward. In fact, it should have been included in the original PS4 as Sony already had a 4K TV available at the time the PS4 was released. If Sony had had the foresight to create the PS4 with 4K, I wouldn’t even be writing this article.

Ultra HD’s Time Has Come

ultra_hd_blu-ray_logo_uhd_bd_bluray_logo_6501Sony, release your 4K refresh with the Ultra HD blu-ray spec. Microsoft, release your refresh with a 4K Halo 5. Because these two consoles are on the cusp of 4K, I’m anxiously awaiting their release. I won’t consider a new console purchase until these are out. Because they are so close, I would suggest you wait also. I would love to see any 4K console refresh for this holiday season. I’d love to see Halo 5 running in 4K. In fact, I’d love to play pretty much any of this holiday’s season games including Fallout 4, Halo 5, Black Ops III, Just Cause 3 and Star Wars in 60hz 4K. That would be an amazing holiday gift this season.

How to pair your PS4 controller wirelessly

Posted in Sony, video gaming by commorancy on July 31, 2015

DUALSHOCK 4We all know the drill. You’ve just run out and spent $65 for that new and oh-so-cool 500 Million Limited Edition DUALSHOCK 4 controller for your PS4. Well, now you’ve got to go through that hassle of pairing it with your console. But, why can’t I pair it wirelessly? You can. Let’s explore.

USB Pairing

The Sony recommended procedure of pairing your new controller to your PS4 is by plugging it into the console with the Sony USB cable and powering the PS4 with the power button. While that’s all well and good (or at least so Sony thinks), it’s a complete and utter hassle… especially when you have other controllers already working. If this is your only DS4 controller (i.e., no others working), you have two choices:

  • Pair your new controller with a cable
  • Pair it using flat screen’s remote control using HDMI-CEC (jump to CEC)

If you don’t have a flat screen with CEC or CEC is not enabled, you better go find that USB cable.

However, if you have more than one working controller, you can skip this hassle and go to …

… wait for it …

Wireless Pairing

PS4 DUALSHOCK 4 controllers are bluetooth devices and like all bluetooth devices you can pair them wirelessly. Of course, you can’t pair the device if it is the only device (see above), but if you happen to have other working devices to control your PS4 (like another controller or a media remote), you’re good to go to with wireless pairing.

Before you start this process, go to the PS4’s Settings => Devices => Bluetooth Devices area and leave it on this screen. On this screen you’ll see all your paired devices and this is also where all new unpaired devices will appear. Unpaired devices will have no grey or green dot next to them.

DS4PairingGuideHow to begin? Press and hold the PS button and the sharing button simultaneously. The sharing button is the small black oval button to the upper left of the touch pad labeled creatively enough SHARE. Press and hold the PS and sharing buttons until the lightbar begins to strobe quickly (approximately 3-5 seconds). While it’s quickly double strobing, it’s in the pairing state like any other bluetooth device. If the strobe is a slow on and off, then the controller is trying to connect to your PS4 or PC. This isn’t what you want. If it’s slow strobing, then you’ll need to wait until it stops to try again. Pressing the PS button before the share button could lead you into slow strobing. So, I would suggest pressing and holding the share button slightly before you press and hold the PS button to avoid triggering the slow strobe.

Once it’s double strobing, look at your screen under Bluetooth Devices and look for the DUALSHOCK 4 that has no dot (probably at the bottom of the PS4 screen). Using a working controller or remote, select the new controller and complete the pairing on the next screen.

If you don’t see your DUALSHOCK 4 device in the list, check to make sure the device is still in pairing mode. If not, put it in pairing mode. If it’s still in pairing mode, back out of that screen and then go back into it. This will force a search refresh for new devices. Hopefully it will appear now. If not, move closer to the PS4 with the new controller. If this all fails, use the USB pairing method above… again, time to go dig out that cable.

Once paired, you can now use the controller normally.

Don’t have access to your PS4?

I’ve had a number of comments on this article regarding corruption or rebuilding of a PS4 after a new hard drive insertion. Before you lose access to your PS4 entirely either because you failed to power off the unit properly, because the hard drive failed or because you replaced the hard drive, you should make sure you have some alternative form of PS4 XMB menu control. You have to remember to set this up while you still have a working PS4. You won’t be able to easily do some of these steps after you lose access and cannot find or do not have a proper microUSB pairing cable.

Note, if you are replacing the PS4’s hard drive, setting anything up in advance probably won’t work as the new hard drive will need to be reinstalled with a new operating system. So, any settings will be lost on hard drive replacement… skip down to Wired Controller below or be prepared with a PS4 compatible micro USB cable.

HDMI-CEC (control your PS4 with TV remote control)

Many flat screens today support control of the PS4 through the HDMI cable using your TV’s remote control. This is called HDMI-CEC or simply CEC. You must enable this on both your TV and on the PS4 while you have a controller that works. To enable this on your PS4, go to Settings=>General=>HDMI link and check this box. Now, go to your TV and enable CEC / HDMI Link to control the connected PS4 with your TV’s remote. Not all TV manufacturers call it CEC, some call it something with the word ‘Link’ in the name, but the protocol is standard. Once enabled, reboot your PS4 and then turn your TV off and then on.

Technomancer Screen Shot 7:20:16, 4.52 AM 2CEC control has changed in a recent PS4 system update. When you have CEC enabled, the remote is now considered a controller. Once you flip over to the PS4’s HDMI port on your TV, the PS4 should turn on. Once booted up, the remote control should present as a controller (see screenshot to the right). The screen should show your login ID. Press your ENTER or OK key on the remote to enter into the XMB menu. Apparently, Sony realized this intrinsic problem with CEC and updated the PS4 to now allow the remote control to be recognized as an XMB controller on the bootup screen. What this all means is that you can now fully control your PS4 with your TV’s remote control without needing a DS4 controller at all. With CEC, you can now pair your controller using your TV’s remote through settings. Though, I wouldn’t recommend trying to play games using your TV’s controller.

If the PS4’s screen does not show the login ID panel and simply has the words “Press the PS button to use the controller” in the middle of the screen, the PS4 has not recognized a controller. This can be for several reasons. If you powered the PS4 on before flipping to it via HDMI, the PS4 doesn’t see the TV as the controller. The device that powers the PS4 on is the device presented on the boot up screen. When you use a DS4 to power it on, the DS4 will show as the controller on the boot screen. When you use the the TV to switch to and power on the PS4, the TV’s controller becomes the default on this screen. If you can’t get the TV’s controller to show up at all, then you will need to skip down to the next section for pairing with a USB cable.

As mentioned above, you will need to set CEC up on your TV and the PS4 in advance to use this feature. If you have no functional gamepad controllers, your TV doesn’t support CEC or you haven’t set CEC up in advance, skip to USB pairing.

MicroUSB pairing cable

If you’re looking for something right away, you can stop by a store (or order online) and purchase a microUSB pairing cable. Sony offers an official cable that costs around $10. You can get a cable from the following places:

Wired Controller

If you’ve completely lost control to your PS4 through your Dual Shock 4 and you don’t have any other way to activate a PS button and you can’t seem to get your DS4 controllers paired with a cable, you will need to use a wired controller. There are only a few PS4 wired controllers on the market, but Hori makes a couple of gamepad versions.

While these gamepads are not as full featured as a Sony Dual Shock 4 (i.e., no light bar, no rumble, no speaker, no headset jack, etc), they will at least let you control your PS4 when nothing else will. Amazon also offers a few PS4 wired arcade-style stick controllers that may work. Make sure they have a PS button to launch the PS4’s XMB menu. Also, you will need to double-check that they are, in fact, wired controllers. While most third party controllers are wired, you’ll definitely want to read through the product description in the listings carefully to make sure it doesn’t use a wireless dongle. Though, a wireless dongle may work for controlling the PS4 for a short period of time, they may not work for long gaming sessions as they have tendencies to time out forcing the controller to be reconnected often.

Hori Pad FPS Pro Gamepad

I recently picked up a Hori Pad FPS Plus. This is a very nice controller with the exception of two things. First, the shoulder buttons take getting used to because they are pressure sensitive in a different way from the DS4’s trigger shoulder buttons. Because it takes a different amount of pressure to activate them, it feels different from the trigger controllers on the DS4. Once you get used to the pressure needed for these shoulder buttons, everything else is pretty much spot on including the touch pad. And, I like the reversed placement of the D-Pad and the left joystick (like the Xbox controller). This game pad is also well made and quite light in weight because it doesn’t have the lightbar, rumble or battery. I also like that I can continue to play without worry of running out of battery. The second issue, it won’t turn on the PS4 with the press of the PS button when the PS4 is off. For me, this is only a small problem because I have CEC enabled. Simply switching to the PS4’s HDMI port turns the PS4 on. Otherwise, you’ll need to get up and touch the power button or use a DS4 to turn it on and then use PS button on the Hori to get into the menu (the DS4 controller will automatically turn off when the Hori Pad logs in).

Note that there are other things the Hori Pad doesn’t have, like a headphone jack or a speaker. While I do like the speaker on the DS4, for me it doesn’t ruin the game without it. Yes, it is kind of cool when GTA5’s phone comes out of the DS4’s speaker, but it’s mostly a gimmick.

Dualshock 4 and Computers

Note, you can use this same pairing approach to pair this controller to other operating systems. For example, a Mac or Windows. The trouble, while the DS4 does pair, you still need a driver to map the buttons to make the controller useful. For this reason, it’s not that useful on a Mac yet, but you might try Joystick Mapper. I know the Joystick Mapper devs were working on an update to drive the DS4 controller on a Mac. For Windows, there’s InputMapper that does work.

As for pairing and using it on iOS or Android, it might pair but won’t be useful. Yes, some have managed to pair it, but it doesn’t seem to have any kind of drivers or support. I’d like to see Sony create a PS Vita gaming tablet that fully supports the DS4. That would be the best of all worlds. Skip iOS and Android and go right for a full out Sony gaming tablet. But, Sony definitely needs to get more gaming devs on board to bring the blockbuster titles. But, that’s another topic entirely.

Documentation

While I understand Sony’s reluctance to document a wireless pairing guide like this due to the need for an already working controller, I really don’t like having to locate that special Sony microUSB cable for this process. Not all microUSB cables are equal. If you don’t have the correct Sony PS4 (or compatible) cable, the pairing process above won’t work. Because this cable looks like all other black microUSB cables, you can easily mix them up or lose them. For that $65, I don’t understand why Sony can’t include a 3′ compatible cable in the box with the controller since the PS4 is so finicky about which cable will work.

I also don’t typically leave dangling cables hanging from my console for a variety of reasons including safety. So, locating this special pairing cable is not always quick in my house. I mean, one black cable looks like any other. Sony doesn’t specifically mark the cable well, so digging through a ton of microUSB cables trying to find that special Sony cable isn’t something I want to spend my time doing… especially when I already have a working controller.

When you have at least some kind of a functional controller, wireless pairing is a perfectly acceptable (and more efficient) alternative. Yet, Sony’s site mentions nothing of this process. That’s the reason I document it here.

[UPDATED: 6/11/2019] Controller Giveaway

Unfortunately, the controller giveaway didn’t reach the required 25 qualified subscriber entries to award the controller. However, I will randomly select one qualified subscriber to receive a $10 Amazon gift card. If you are a subscriber who entered, please check your email in the next 10 days as you may be the winner of this gift card. I will attempt to give the controller away again soon, so stay please tuned.

If this article helped you, please leave a comment below. If you had difficulties pairing your device, please let me know that too.

Call of Duty – Advanced Warfare Review: Good, but a mixed bag

Posted in reviews, video gaming by commorancy on November 8, 2014

CallOfDutyLogoCubeMost previous Call of Duty titles were more-or-less grounded in some reality close to today. Well, Advanced Warfare finally tosses all of that aside and goes straight for a fantasy shooter. No longer are we looking at real world locations with real world weapons, we’re now firmly looking at some distant future where there are robotic suits you can strap on, flying drones with machine gun weapons, magnetic wall crawling abilities and more. This is definitely not the Call of Duty of yore.

Story

Your character, Jack Mitchell, is an ex-military war vet with a missing arm lost in a botched mission. As you’re being washed out of the military, Atlas corporation enlists you to give you a second chance with a prosthetic arm (and to become a mercenary). No sooner is the prosthetic arm strapped on than is Atlas sending you into a training simulation, to which you fail because the ‘arm isn’t ready’ (part of the story). As soon as you get the arm repaired, you are sent in a second time (yes, you do this mission twice) and you succeed the second time.

From here, you find out that the owner of Atlas, Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey), likes what you have to offer Atlas and continues to court you into their team. From here, the story begins.

Kevin Spacey as Jonathan Irons

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Kevin Spacey as Jonathan Irons

I’m mixed about this whole let’s-make-a-main-character-look-like-an-actor gimmick. In reality, the first and only thing I see each time I see this character is Kevin Spacey, not Jonathan Irons. In fact, Jonathan’s name is so not mentioned in the story that you really don’t ever know what this character’s name really is. Note, Spacey’s character name is so badly unmentioned in this game that I had to actually go Google his name to write this review. Unfortunately, that lack of namedropping doesn’t help this character to become more menacing. In fact, because he’s not in most of the game and because you don’t even know his name, what makes the writers think this character is even worthy of being a villain? I mean, one way or the other, this character had to die in the game. It was inevitable based on the way the story was set up. But, the character development around this villain is seriously lacking.

The rest of the story

Though, the story is less about Jonathan and more about you and Gideon’s (your sidekick) missions. It’s what drives the game and keeps the action interesting. The story is reasonably decent, but is centered around distinct missions that are distanced by time. So, the cohesion of the story isn’t always as good as it could have been. But, the action and lack of repetition does keep the story and environments quite interesting.

Story Choice and Player Character

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Cormack and Mitchell

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Gideon and Mitchell

Let’s just bluntly say, there are none. The story is linear. There are no choices that you can make that impact the outcome of any of the segments or the final ending. So, if you want to let someone live vs die, there are no choices in this game like this. You’re dragged through the story, more or less, as a tag-along for the entire game. While your character is made to seem important by Atlas, the missions treat you as a rookie who barely knows his way around a training coarse. The game does not at all treat you like you’re the well respected and experienced soldier that you formerly were.

Linear Shooter

The downside to this game is that it is a completely linear shooter. What I mean by that is that it has absolutely no open world elements. It’s a firmly closed world kept in check mostly by Mitchell’s death. Meaning, if you stray from the mission, Mitchell is dead. If you do the wrong thing, Mitchell is dead. If you lag, Mitchell is dead. If you do anything other than what the story requires, Mitchell dies or the mission fails and ends. If it’s not your character who dies, then it’s one of your sidekicks. If they die, your mission is over. If you’re looking for more of an open world to play around in, don’t look here. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is not the game for you.

Graphics

10525368_932844880078066_7906915004664649843_oOn the other hand, this game on the PS4 is absolutely stunning visually. From the detailed suits that everyone wears to the vehicles, to the landscapes, to the buildings, the signage, everything. There’s not a detail in this world that wasn’t painstakingly made in high res. Combining all of that with near perfect naturalistic lighting, and you have some amazing scenes in the game. In fact, the cut scenes may have been produced on the PS4 and recorded. The graphics on the PS4 are so close in look to the cut scenes, it seems they likely were recorded on the PS4. Even as visually stunning as this game is, it can’t overcome the forced linear nature of the gameplay.

Gameplay

For the most part, I like the game play. The controls are simple, they work well and the button layouts are perfectly placed. However, that’s not the real problem here. The real problem is the inconsistent nature of the suit (see Exo Suit section below). This game borrows heavily from games like Killzone Shadowfall (futuristic look and feel plus some story elements), Halo 3 (vehicle, weapons and shield) and Crysis (the suit and lighting). Unfortunately, as much as they borrow, it doesn’t help the gameplay that much because of the linear nature. In fact, the gameplay is so linear, it might as well have been a rail shooter. Why even let us wander off at all? Just put up barriers. Nope, instead, they let you wander off but then give you a warning message ‘You are about to abandon your team’.  If you stray far enough for long enough, the mission fails.

This is the most problematic portion of this game. Here the artists have created an absolutely stunning world with well developed characters using amazing character models, and we’re stuck being a tag along.  Though, the character AI on the sidekicks has to be some of the worst I’ve seen in a game. Gideon’s aim is about as good as a Stormtrooper in Star Wars. That is, he couldn’t hit the side of a barn if it were 5 feet away. Seriously, the game entirely relies on your aim and your gun skills to kill anything and everything that moves. The other characters do occasionally manage to kill an enemy or two, but usually only at close range by melee. Not usually by killing them with a gun.

There are also times in the game where Gideon’s voice work is truly and utterly annoying. There’s one mission where you have to cross what amounts to a highway with continual cars and buses speeding by. At times, I felt like Frogger. Anyway, what’s most annoying about this scene is Gideon says ‘Get across the road’ every 2 seconds. Literally, every 2 seconds he’s chiming in telling you to get across the road. But, there are like 10 enemies on the median waiting to pop a cap in you. So, the first thing you need to do is sniper them all off considering Gideon’s (lack of) ability to actually shoot a gun. In among his constantly annoying chatter, you’re trying to pick off these enemies. It’s like, “Dude, shut the hell up and shoot these people first. Then, we’ll worry about getting across the damned road.”  And even worse, just a few feet away from you is a pedestrian overpass. If you try to go over to the overpass to get a higher vantage point, you can’t. The game simply won’t let you. In fact, if you try, it will warn that you’re about to abandon your mission. So, where is that ‘use whatever you can to get an advantage’ strategy that Call of Duty was so previously famous for?

Simulations and Checkpoint Saves

1956906_932045896824631_5119604728357774203_oAs with most Call of Duty games, the developers like to throw in a lot of different game modes to keep the game from becoming stale. In this case, there are flight simulators, suit jetpacks, jumping super high, a hover bike, hover tank simulator, mech suits, drone machine gun control, etc. These are some of the various additions. These are few and far between. In fact, you’ll only get one chance at each of these. For the flying simulator, that’s actually a good thing. The flight simulator in this game is probably one of the most horrible flight sims I’ve ever played. It’s so bad, in fact, that it feels like you’re flying about 2 MPH and you can’t keep yourself from running into anything and everything in the environment. Sometimes the developers just don’t get these pieces right.

On the hover bike level, I actually failed at a point where I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to finish. Because you’re supposed to be following Gideon on his bike, the save check point saved my game at a point where I was just too far away. So, every time it restarted my game, I didn’t have enough time to catch up to him. I finally found a trick that somewhat reset the fail timer and let me finally get past this level without restarting. I had this same exact problem on the hover tank level with the checkpoint save. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any tricks for the hover tank and I restarted the entire mission from the beginning. In this game, checkpoint saves aren’t always your friend.

Exo Suit

The suit itself is kind of cool, but a little too derivative of other suits like the Crysis Nanosuit. Though the initial suit was more or less a skeleton that attached to your body (rather than full body coverings), later in the game you get a full body suit that is much more reminiscent of the suit in Crysis (cloak included).

The suit has a lot of cool features, but the enemies always appear to have technologies that conveniently counter some of the most useful of the suit’s capabilities, like the cloak.  I mean, why even offer a cloak in the game when you can’t even use it most of the time? Seriously, why spend the time building the feature in the game when it cannot even be used for much of the game?

The secondary problem with the Exo Suit is that the features of the suit are turned on and off by the story and level segment. So, while you do have a drone you can use, you can only used it at specific limited times. If you want to jump high, that’s only available at limited times. If you want to use the grappling hook, that’s only available on limited levels. Instead of adding more and more to your suit, the designers chose to enable the suit features only when the gameplay warranted their use, not when the gamer chooses to use them.

Overall

1522580_932845190078035_8037699168592533202_oIn among all of the above problems, I enjoyed the game’s campaign and story. The main problem with this game, just like Killzone Shadowfall, the campaign is very very short.  You can expect to finish the entire campaign in under 3 days casually playing. If you are a hard core gamer, you can probably finish it in under 24 hours. For $60, this is far too short. This is also the exact same way I felt about Killzone Shadowfall. It also has a great campaign game, but is too short. Halo 3’s campaign is much more lengthy.  It took me at least a couple weeks or longer to get through Halo 3, not to mention all the easter eggs all over the level (i.e., the skulls).

It seems with the next generation games, short gameplay is the number one problem. To produce these visually stunning, nearly photo real and human motion accurate games, the gameplay and story are sacrificed. This leaves the story no more than 2-3 days worth of play value. It’s unfortunate, I’d rather have a less pretty experience and a much more lengthy campaign that might take a month to complete. For that $60, I want to have a long and lengthy story experience. I want to walk away feeling like I’ve just experienced the equivalent of a visual novel. I want to walk away also knowing I got my $60 worth of play.

Unless you are a really devoted fan of multiplayer games, I’d recommend that for the reason of shortness, you rent it. Though, the game does look amazing.

Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 9/10
Gameplay: 7/10 (flight sim was horrible, suit lacks consistent abilities)
Overall: 7.5/10

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