Returned to winning ways with a minor completion this month. I need to revisit the list of games I meant to play this year though, since I appear to have gone wildly off track. Haven’t given up on any during September, but I fear for Dead Space. If I don’t wrap that up during October I might have to write it off.
Games completed during September
Marvel vs Capcom Infinite – PS4
I picked this up during September, had a bit of a craving to play some Capcom fighting games (as will be evident from the below playlist). I had ignored this when it first came out due to the poor reception it received. While it’s a far cry from Capcom at their best, it is decent enough if you can pick it up cheap. I got it for around £14 with the 6 DLC characters. I played through the story mode on a day off and quite enjoyed it, not as much as the recent Injustice & Mortal Kombat games, but still an entertaining diversion.
Also played this month
X-Men vs Street Fighter – SEGA Saturn
One of the best crossover fighters, really enjoyed playing a bit of this again. Although the Juggernaut & Zangief team admittedly gave me quite the headache!
Street Fighter V – PS4
Seemed a recent patch reset my progress in the new Arcade modes on here, so I had to start over. I’ve now redone the first two. If I manage to do all 6 of them, I might count this as another completion.
Destiny 2 – PS4
A free game with PS Plus during September, I was pleased to be able to give this ago. I’ve played the first hour or so to get to the main hub so I could play with people, but haven’t yet felt the urge to go back to it. Felt a lot like playing the first one to be honest.
Games picked up during September
Tesla vs Lovecraft – PS4
Been waiting for this to pop up in a sale for a while, think it was around £4. As will be evident if you’ve listened to the recent Maximum Power-Up Podcast (or if you’ve met me…) I am always up for a game with a Lovecraftian influence, and also partial to a twin-stick shooter. I’ve put a couple of hours into Tesla vs Lovecraft now, and have been enjoying it. The game plays a lot like Nex Machina, although it’s not quite as deep / polished as that (not much is though).
SF x Tekken – PC
I used to own a retail version of this, but think I gave it away in a disappointed huff. However, I really wanted to play it again so picked up a Steam Code for a couple of quid. It is a fun game, but the micro-transaction pushing gem system is a travesty and pretty much spoils the whole thing. As a bit of a bonus, the fix I had to install to make it run properly on Windows 10 also unlocked all the extra characters, which was nice.
Forza Horizon 4 Ultimate Ed. – XB1 / PC
I originally pre-ordered the standard retail edition of this. Forza Horizon 3 being my favourite racer of all time, I felt confident about a pre-order. However, after the recent upgrade to my PC I really wanted to be able to play it on there as well. Once the demo came out, I played it a bit on both the Xbox and PC, and took the plunge. Cancelled my ‘xbox one only’ physical pre-order and started shopping around for a good deal on the ‘cross-buy’ digital edition. I managed to upsell myself to the Ultimate Edition, thanks to finding a discounted code online, so I’ve been able to start playing the game a few days early.
Capcom Beat ’em Up Bundle – PS4
This appeared out of nowhere. Didn’t see any news about it ahead of release, but was a day one purchase when I saw the line up. Seven of Capcom’s Arcade Brawlers, two of which have never previously had home versions. Looking forward to playing some of these in local co-op.
Rounding off this set of posts for the time being, I thought I’d look my gaming PC. Obviously there are many benefits of a PC in terms of media and productivity, but I’m going to just look at PC Gaming, after all I could get the other functions from a basic laptop for a fraction of the cost.
I’d also like to briefly address the heinous term “PC Master Race”. The implications of “Master Race” alone should be enough to make most people feel uncomfortable, but even taking it as a ‘light-hearted’ joke, it still stinks of the elitism that annoys the hell out of me in any ‘fandom’. PC gaming is rarely as straightforward as many would have you believe, and for everyone who preaches the wonders of Steam and how everything just works, there is someone else stuck in driver/windows/intermittent fault hell. I love PC Gaming, but entirely understand anyone who prefers to just stick to consoles.
Anyway, on with the list.
1. Real Time Strategy (RTS)
A genre that remains painful to play on a controller, the real home for these is the PC. These games entirely capture the childhood enjoyment of playing toy soldiers. There are so many great series; Warcraft, Starcraft, Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Empire Earth, Dawn of War. All favourites, despite my complete failure to be any good at them.I’m also going to throw general strategy games in here, games I do enjoy but don’t play often, they only really feel ‘right’ in a PC environment. Things like Settlers, Civilization, City Building sims etc.
The developer probably responsible for most of my play time overall and filled with a genius approach to promoting their own other games from within each title. Although they dabble with console releases, they always feel best to me on the PC. Diablo 3 is awesome on the modern consoles for couch co-op, but if I’m going to play online with friends, I still turn to the PC.Blizzard do an outstanding job of making me want to play all their games, all the time. Even the month I spent playing Hearthstone started because I just wanted to get 3 wins to unlock a mount in a different game. Heroes of the Storm & Hearthstone both managed to convince me to play genres I otherwise had no interest in. Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 get regular play from me and even though I’m well out of World of Warcraft, I still go back for a few weeks for each expansion. I’ve just put down my pre-order for Overwatch,* and yes I’ll be playing the PC version.
3. First Person Shooter (FPS)
My one time favourite genre, these days I have more of a love/hate relationship with it. As much as I love the Halo games and I’ve had a lot of fun with Destiny, whenever I sit at my desk to play a FPS online, it feels like coming home. Keyboard and Mouse controls being best for FPS is almost a cliché at this point, I’m sure there are plenty of skilled players who have never used anything other than a twin stick control pad. My love pretty much peaked with Quake 3 Arena, I dabble with whatever else my friends are playing, but I still go back to Quake Live for the Deathmatch fix.
4. Shmups, emulators & rotating monitors
Thanks to some great steam ports, I can play a lot of the best shmups on my PC. Although there are some great console ones still exclusive to modern consoles, the PC still has an overall edge. A rotating monitor arm* gives me access to TATE mode to play vertical shmups like Raiden as they are intended, and coupled with my arcade stick I get a solid experience that could only really be improved by building a full Arcade Cabinet. Add to this the abundance of emulators (accepting the morally grey area of sourcing ROMs) and you get the ability to play the greatest shmups from arcade and console history, easily justifying PC ownership for a shmup fan.
5. Controller options
For many games the Keyboard & Mouse can be considered almost perfect, particularly the previously mentioned RTS and FPS genres. For those other games there is a seemingly never ending amount of choice. Personally I keep a USB Xbox 360 Control pad* and Arcade Stick around for the majority of appropriate titles. I am considering adding a flight stick soon and getting involved in Elite Dangerous and replaying some classic Descent and Tie Fighter.
While Xbox Live and PSN both do the matchmaking, parties and voice chat stuff perfectly well, it still feels to me like the PC has the edge. There is a lot to be said for the simplicity of the console options, but the choice and flexibility of systems on PC suits me better, whether using group Skype calls, or other platforms such as Curse or Ventrilo. There is also much better support for setting up private servers, and customising them appropriately.
7. In-home streaming & Steamlink
Relatively new to me, but since connecting a second PC in the lounge I’ve found Steam in-home streaming to be excellent. Those games suited to a big screen and the sofa with a controller, i.e. platformers are a natural fit. The steam link hardware makes this an option for people without a second PC with a low cost of entry.
8. Cost of games & persistent libraries
Steam’s sales and sites selling bundles of games for a ‘pay-what-you-want’ system have led to a really low cost for PC games, making it very inexpensive to build up a (frankly ridiculous) library. It’s also important to note that unlike the console generation cycle, these games remain accessible with each upgrade. Although there is often some tinkering to get older games to run on each new version of windows, your library stays with you. Steps are sometimes taken via the console manufacturers to attempt to address this, at least for one generation, i.e. Xbox One backwards compatibility having limited support for Xbox 360 games. However it is more common for them to just make you re-buy the same game again, isn’t it Nintendo?
9. Modding community
Another well know advantage, is the availability of user created mods and patches for games. This is widespread and a huge bonus in so many areas. Entire genres have come out of mods for other games, Tower Defence and MOBA’s such as DOTA have their origins in user mods (for Warcraft 3 I believe…)Often mods are released for older games to take advantage of developments in hardware, with entire new engines added. Games like Doom, Quake, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and so many others benefit from this kind of thing. The closest parallel for consoles is generally the ‘HD Remaster’ which in many cases is still good, but disappointingly tends to involve re-buying the game again.
I have to put this in really, but yes, mid to high-end PC hardware is capable of outperforming consoles, and frequently has the best version of cross-platform releases where they take advantage of that hardware. Although it is important to note that this isn’t always the case, I’m looking at you Arkham Knight, and every big release currently on the Windows 10 store. Things like Killer Instinct, Quantum Break & Gears of War are all suffering issues, most seem to have been introduced by the distribution model though, and are good versions when you can get them working!
*affiliate Amazon links – I will get a small commission if you make a purchase following these links
I still see a lot of people unsure about the leap into the new(ish) generation, and still more arguments over which is best. Given that I now own a gaming PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I thought I’d review the reasoning behind the purchases, and also what I get out of them on-going. I also decided that if I couldn’t come up with 10 for each system, I might as well get rid! This isn’t just a list of exclusive games, although those are obviously a factor.
I’m a pretty big fan of Housemarque, particularly where their shmups are concerned. Both Super Stardust HD and Super Stardust Delta were influential factors in why I invested in the PS3 and Vita respectively. I was excited about this from the early trailers and felt a draw to the PS4. I played it for the first time when staying with friends for a long weekend and I realised it was something special. I managed to resist buying the console for a while longer, and when the port to Vita was announced I thought I’d be safe for some time to come. I hammered it on Vita when it turned up, but it wasn’t long after that I was handing over my monies for a PS4 to get the ‘proper’ 60fps experience. It’s great and near enough justifies the purchase all on its own.
In what could be considered to be one of the greatest post launch turnarounds ever, this has recently become one of my favourite racers. (Notable mentions here for Destiny – The Taken King and Diablo – The Reaper of Souls as other great turnarounds…) It was widely acknowledged that Driveclub at launch was a mess. Server issues, the perpetually postponed ‘free’ PS+ version, you name it.By the time I got my PS4 though, things had improved. When I got home with my console, I hooked it up online, set it downloading all the free PS+ games I’d acquired over the previous year, and purchased the Playstation Plus Full Game Upgrade (the free version wasn’t yet out, but this was on offer at £19.99 and seemed worth a punt) I also grabbed the RESOGUN season pass, since I still felt bad that I’d gained the game for free through Plus. I loved Driveclub from the off, and it went some way to scratching the Forza itch I’d had since getting rid of my 360. The developers continued to impress with regular free content and improvement patches, and the game matured. It is very difficult though, and I found my progress coming to a halt in the ‘Tour’ modes. Regardless, this didn’t stop me purchasing the Season Pass when a PSN sale saw it drop to £10. So much content, it was obviously great value.Since then patches have addressed the difficulty, a ‘silver medal’ mode saw me returning to the Tour (the skill deficit is obviously my issue, I note plenty of my friends were progressing just fine on gold). The addition of Bikes towards the end of last year was huge, and bizarrely I seem to be doing much better at that than I did in the cars. It should be a system seller, and I still think it’s the best looking racing game I’ve ever played. Even my flatmate finds himself watching me play and admiring the visuals. I’m not so keen on his habit of telling me which crashes I’d walk away from, and which ones would see me dead on the spot. I won’t be buying a motorcycle any time soon, regardless of any recommendations from my attorney…
Metro Redux The first of my cross-platform mentions, and controversially, a HD Remaster of a game that was hardly old to begin with. However, it stands out as being one of my favourite gaming experiences of recent years, and quite possibly my favourite single player FPS since Quake. It looks amazing on PS4, and it nails the atmosphere perfectly. Playing it alone at night with the lights off was terrifying, and I’m not ashamed to say I did dream about those tunnels for a while after.I heartily recommend playing this, and it’s frequently on sale. I played through the 2033 remake first, then read the original novel before tackling Last Light. A superb experience, I’m confident I’ll go back and replay it on those harder difficulties, which is almost unheard of for me, since I rarely even finish games once, nevermind a replay.
The Rayman reboot that started with Origins was a huge return to form for the character, and a boost for platforming in general. I picked this up as something to play in co-op with my girlfriend, and it has been a huge success. A big plus here for the PS4 version is that although I still only have one controller for the system, I can use my Vita to play. This works really well, and we have been enjoying playing Lego Marvel Super Heroes in the same manner.
Madden 15 One of my circles of friends used to all live fairly close, and we had regular gaming days and meetups. As we’ve grown older we’ve moved far enough away that it’s no longer easy to just meet up at short notice, and adult lives mean we’re rarely all free on the same evening to game online. We agreed to buy Madden when it was on offer, thinking we’d be able to play 4 player 2 v 2 online on those occasions we did manage it. Given that I hadn’t played an NFL game properly since Joe Montana on the SEGA Master System, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Well it turned out EA had removed the ability to play 2 v 2 which was a bummer, and we resigned ourselves to playing 1 v 1. Then we discovered Connected Franchise mode. Obviously this is old hat to anyone familiar with the series and I expect sporting games in general, but it was pretty huge to us. We are now half way through an NFL season, where we’re essentially playing asynchronous multiplayer, in much the same way as you might have played chess via email in the 90s. When fixtures mean we have to play each other, the PS4 makes it really easy to stream the games to the other players so we can offer support / abuse in real time.
Geometry Wars 3 & Jamestown+
Shmups! Again these are not platform exclusives, but they are excellent shmups. They both benefit from being played on the big screen, and I’ve spent some time with each. The PS4 shmup library is growing, with Darius Burst Chronicles being next on my list to acquire. The PS4 is also platform of choice for these, as it has a friends list of active shmuppers, keeping those leaderboards populated.
Rocket League A surprise contender for Game of the Year 2015, this completely came from nowhere. Free with PS+, I found myself buying cosmetic DLC just to throw a little money the developer’s way. It’s an absolute blast, and a regular for when I can’t decide what to play, or for teaming up online with a couple of buddies and losing to randoms on ranked. The ‘Snow Day’ playlist of an Ice Hockey mode was some of the best gaming I had over the holiday season.
Although military shooters all blurred into one for me sometime ago, that doesn’t mean I don’t like playing them. This was bundled with all the DLC for a sensible price, so a few of us agreed to buy it and play together. We’ve had some solid Team Deathmatch experiences, and it also goes some of the way to recapturing the enjoyment I had from Warhawk on the PS3.I still drop into it, but I’d really like Warhawk 2 on the PS4, please. (No I don’t want to talk about Starhawk, go away). Admittedly there are experiences on PC which should be comparable, but I always find PC FPS to be a bit more serious. This is great for that chilled evening on the couch driving your buddies around in a tank.
Crossbuy & PSPlus = Pix the Cat, Limbo, Velocity, Resogun again
PS+ has been stella for me since launch. I adore my Vita, and thanks to Crossbuy there have been multiple games that I’ve enjoyed playing both on the go and on my big screen. This list isn’t exhaustive, but they are highlights. Pix the Cat stands out as being something that completely took me by surprise, but dominated my playtime for about a month. I noticed recently that one of my friends beat me on one of the leaderboards too, so I’ll be back on it soon…
SingStar, eventually Sometime early in the PS3 era, SingStar went from being a PS2 novelty I was vaguely aware of, to being at almost every social gathering I went to. SingStar nights became regular occurrences, and through the wonders of alcohol, not at all horrific. The game got more and more polished, my friends and I all spent a small fortune on downloading more songs, adding cameras and wireless microphones* and a good time was had by all.
The inevitable PS4 launch came, and although initially sounding promising, your mics will still work, you’ll be able to download your songs (providing they’re on the new store) it was a disaster. There was new latency on the mics, hardly any songs were downloadable, and they’d stripped out most of the gameplay modes. We wrote it off. Recently though, after months and months of silence, it received a pretty hefty patch. The whole experience has been improved, 95% of my songs are available and new gameplay modes have been added as well as restoring the ones taken away. It’s the game it should have been. All I need to do is shell out for another camera, and the parties are back in business. Just need to apologise to the neighbours in advance.
Obviously the reasons mentioned above are personal, and we all like different games and experiences. I’m very happy with my PS4, and although I’m also pleased with the Xbox One and will be doing a follow up post for that, the PS4 would still be the system I’d recommend if you were only going to get one current system. It does tend to get the best versions of cross-platform games, and although you could argue a gaming PC might do that better, there is always an Arkham Knight to remind you that it’s not all that simple…
*Affiliate Amazon links, where I’ll receive a small commission for purchases
It always used to be fairly common to take your games to your friend’s house to play on their console, providing you all had the same machine (and you weren’t that one kid who went Nintendo, bleurgh). To a lesser extent this still happens now, although more often I find it just involves signing into your digital account to download your games straight onto their console.
What used to also be fairly common though, was owning joysticks and other controllers that were multi-format. As far as I can remember, my first experience of this was owning the superb Quickshot Maverick. Possibly the origin of my arcade stick love, I got this for my SEGA Master System and hammered R-Type, Fantasy Zone and Transbot(!) with it. Well I say hammered, but I was young and probably shite/even worse than I am now. The multi-format capability was a real bonus, I frequently took it to my friend’s house for C64 gaming, it was a joy for Sheep in Space, Arnie, Slicks and Silkworm, and later it became controller of choice for my next door neighbour’s Amiga and hours of Sensible Soccer.
In the Saturn era (my Golden Age of gaming) this phenomenon would help me out again. I owned the delightful looking (!) Madcatz Fazor lightgun, compatible with both the Saturn and PSX. As well as benefiting my ownership of each machine in turn, it also regularly travelled to friend’s houses for ‘player 2’ experiences on Virtua Cop and Die Hard Trilogy etc. Sadly it wasn’t ‘Guncon’ compatible, but later multi-platform lightguns were released that were.
At this time I also had the VRF1 Steering Wheel. Again it was pretty funky looking, not entirely dissimilar from the official Saturn one. This also worked on both Saturn and PSX, but with added N64 support into the mix. This device and I spent hours on Sega Rally, Wipeout 2097, Ridge Racer and Porsche Challenge. I remember devices of this kind being fairly common, although obviously varying wildly in quality, as has always been the nature of third party accessories.
Fast forward to present day, and things get a bit different. As discussed in my previous post, I embraced multi-format gaming in a big way once I was old enough to finance/justify to myself owning a range of machines. However the perils of being an adult also involve balancing budgets and apartment space. I find it impossible to justify buying controllers such as steering wheels, when they’ll only work on one platform and I want to play racing games on three or more. They are simply too expensive and take up too much space to get involved with owning multiple devices.
I did buy myself a HORI arcade stick for my 360 since it at least also worked on PC. This worked out well for my love affair with Street Fighter 4, and the vast array of shmups I played on both 360 and PC. Unfortunately this meant I was less inclined to enjoy fighters and (non-twinstick) shmups on my PS3 where I only had the standard pads. Periodically I looked into either modding my existing stick or purchasing a custom one, utilising a multi-pcb like the MC Cthulhu board, but costs (and effort) kept putting me off.
Enter the CronusMax Plus. (Update for 2020 – I now have the newer model, Cronus Zen. Does much the same but more polished. Also works perfectly with my Switch and Xbox Series S, and has a built in hub solution for the problems described later in this paragraph so you don’t need an extra one). I stumbled across this little gem on a friends FaceBook post, and it presented the ideal solution to my first world problem. My existing Hori stick had exclusively been used with my PC since I traded in my 360, but after handing over my £45 for the cronus, I found I could now also use it on my PS3 (hello Gradius V and Tekken Tag 2), Xbox One (Killer Instinct!) and, with a little effort involving a ‘pass-thru’ setup with the PC in my lounge, also on PS4 (Jamestown+ and Injustice already getting play, and setting me up nicely for Street Fighter V). I understand the device will do some other fancy stuff too, but just for this purpose it has already paid for itself. A couple of weeks after my purchase a firmware update resolved the need for a pass-thru on PS4, and now even that is straight-forward using a simple usb hub. I understand there are similar devices available, but so far as I’m aware it is the only one so far to resolve the PS4 issue properly, and thus the one I’d recommend.
I’m excited by the possibility now that if I want to upgrade my arcade stick I can stay cross-platform easily and still have a broad selection to choose from. I may even investigate a steering wheel setup, or get one of those Xbox One Elite Controllers. £120 seems marginally more reasonable when I’d be able to use it on PS4 as well as Xbox One and PC. I could even use the PC ‘pass-thru’ arrangement to use Keyboard & Mouse on console FPS games, although I think that might be a step too far.
Part of me does wish they’d just standardise controllers, but at least there is an affordable workaround, and the open nature of the device for ‘tweaking’ does appeal. Now I just have to deal with my other modern, multi-platform gamer problem. How do I decide which group of friends I want to play online with? I’m looking at you Destiny, if only there were shared servers for that. (Another 2020 update, there has at least been some progress in these areas!)