Sunday, December 20, 2020

Cyberpunk 2077

I spent a whole day trying to type a coherent review but I seem not to be able to convey what I have in mind. I wanted to write a review that shows that the game is not bad after reading many negative reviews and people talking how much trash this game is. The game itself is not bad if you are fine with following a linear main story and several side quests. In terms of a rating I'd give it a 7 out of 10 even though I enjoy the game way more than I expected. I was hooked from the beginning and after I changed my perspective about the game and not expect an RPG game but instead a story-driven immersion I enjoyed it even more. After 60 hours or so though the negatives started surfacing. What I just ignored at first started to be a nuisance. On the other hand you don't really need to put up much with the bad things - that can be a bad thing too because it is an indicator that these could have been created or balanced better. When nearing 100 hours though I started to enjoy all the bugs and could laugh when the game saved in a middle of a jump that would kill me no matter what.

At first I ran the game on a computer with slightly higher specs than the recommended ones. I had troubles even running the game. I downloaded it on a computer I use for VR which showed similar problems. After tweaking my Nvidia settings (using help of some rtx 2060 users complaining about not being able to run the game too) I managed to run it on both computers but stuck to the VR one that can run the game with ultra settings on.

The story is about V, a mercenary who for some unknown reason wants to become a legend in Night City. V by a series of misfortunes ends up with a biochip implanted in their head. It cannot be taken out and contains a copy of Johnny Silverhand's psyche which slowly eats V's psyche away. Johnny is a rockerboy who decided to fight against a megacorporation and blast it away 50 years ago.

V may come from different backgrounds (you choose at the beginning) but will still turn into the same person and personality. All you can do is stick with it and there is no way to deviate unless you commit a suicide along the way. Johnny is a total prick but if you befriend him, he'll gain more wisdom.

I enjoyed all the endings to some extent even though I felt pretty bad when going through some. I missed something in those endings though. I didn't feel like it had some kind of a meaning. Many games question humanity and what the future might be. You get to see what makes someone or something a human being and what the society can turn into. Here you are someone with predefined view on things and you can either just stay that way or betray your principle and join the 'bad guys'. And even if you'd logically chose this option deliberately, you probably wouldn't have chosen everything that comes with this outcome. This was a huge let down for me and I spent quite a while contemplating if this could have been done in a better way. I always liked cyberpunk settings but what I also liked about the dystopian future is that it showed where our culture and society can end up. In this kind of future though there were always people present that had still valued human values and virtue and tried to fight the megacorporations. Here gangs fight among each other and we don't see much of politics among the corporations, in fact there is only one megacorporation that is the center of this story - Arasaka.

What I think the game does well though is asking you how you value life and what makes you want to live and how and what would make you want to end your life and why. This is something people should give a thought and some of the decisions and what comes after will make the players think about this and that I find is a good thing as that will help the players understand other people's thought that might be either terminally ill or suicidal.

The Night City is a breathtaking world and I can't describe it with words. The lights, lighting and reflections are beautiful. Walking around and taking pictures is something I truly enjoyed. Exploring the city is great. If you want to do more than that though, you'll be disappointed. I expected to be able to talk to some NPCs but soon found out that it's totally useless to even try. They are pretty dumb, they have preset movements so they either walk their path, cover their head on the ground or run away from the scene disappearing after few meters into nothingness. Their clothes are mostly the same you can get yourself and it is often painful to look at them. You can have sex with a joytoy but the cutscene that follows could be better. I don't even mean in showing more of the actual sex but could be done in a way that makes you want to enjoy watching it.

Illegal activity is nothing to worry about. I expected that if you become wanted you'd be wanted for the rest of the game. NCPD just shows up next to you out of thin air when you do an illegal activity. Just go inside a building and it ends. They will also shoot you if you stand nearby without a reason.

One would also expect stealing would be a crime but no, you just loot anywhere under any NPC's nose and don't get noticed for it.

The game features vehicles you can acquire. You are forced to drive them sometimes. Driving a car seems bad to me. It is very easy to miss a turn since you can't even see it on the mini map in the upper right corner. The traffic is weird at best. If you get close to another car it will just stop. Even hitting a hydrant will stop you dead in your track. I tried my best but failed the driving jobs (not really but it was rather frustrating). Since you get so many vehicles at your disposal you could possibly customize them? It would be a nice feature. The cars you can purchase behave differently so you can find a car that will suit you.

There are series of jobs that affect how the the game will end. Those are long and they allow you to start a romance depending on the person's sexuality. I enjoyed these a lot, maybe even more than the main story. They are about forming a relationship be it a friendship or romance.

The combat is something I shouldn't omit since it is a big part of the game. You can finish most of the game by sneaking past enemies and hacking but the easiest way is to blast your way through. There are many ways how to fight. You can use your own fists, mantis blades (cyberware), melee weapons or ranged weapons. You have quite a choice from different groups of weapons and I stuck to tech precision rifles. The animations and sounds of the weapons and combat are nice and satisfying. Shooting is ok even without aiming, I didn't really aim at all at first until I started using a sniper rifle which needs more precision when shooting someone very far away.

The leveling system is nice but is rather boring. You have 5 attributes - Body, Reflexes, Tech, Calm and Intelligence. Each attribute might be doing something and getting you better stats but I didn't see much difference. Under each of these attributes you have several perk trees. They are mostly combat related with the exception of crafting and hacking. Crafting can be used to create anything if you have a blueprint and components for it. Both can be bought or looted (or created by crafting and disassembling). Quickhacking can be used to distract enemies, unhostile them, or make them explode. Can also be used to turn off cameras or turrets.

I put most points into tech which led me to having a character with 1399 armor and 400 DPS weapon since level 17 or so. Even on hard my character felt invincible and I did not even spend all my points. I look forward to leveling in games because of new abilities that are impactful. In this game though I'd finish the whole game without spending a point. Only once in the game that I felt that I either totally missed something (it was this) or my damage input had to be insane - when fighting Matilda, one of the bosses in the game. I dealt roughly 12k damage unloading one whole magazine into her head and this did not bring her down.

Cyberware mostly gives you higher stats. But there is cyberware that allows to slow down time which can help in combat. Berserk cyberware can also make you stronger in fight but you won't be able to hack. If you take a hacking route getting a good cyberdeck is needed. Augmenting legs is probably the only thing I felt was 'special' since you can jump higher or double jump.

The game is full of bugs. I play VR games and I got used to clipping, other visual bugs and movement not working as intended. Falling through a floor is something that won't surprise me in a VR game but here it surprised me. These kind of things shouldn't be happening. Since everything is scripted in a way you shouldn't deviate from that and thus should avoid bugs. You just walk through the Night City to suddenly slip on a bag of trash flatlining. You headshot an enemy, their head exploding but the body still walks around and talks. NPCs t-posing. That's not all. While these are mostly 'visual' bugs and break the immersion there are also bugs that break the game in a way. I couldn't loot for quite some time and I couldn't see the location of the loots. When I finally could pick up items they were all above my level. My bought perks didn't work. There were jobs that I couldn't finish. I had to restart even the main story several times because either one of the NPCs got stuck or because the next step simply didn't trigger. Not only I lost some legendaries I got on my way, but I had to restart a relatively long job again.

Cyberpunk 2077 offers an immersive cyberpunk story and a great world - Night City - to explore. The story and characters are well written. They are well voiced and acted. The graphics is nice even though I wouldn't call it next gen, it would have been 8 years ago. Sound is great, both the music and sound effects. Many side missions that you can complete are really good, some are just fun and some are repetitive. The game play itself is good even though if you are more of a hardcore gamer you might find it lacking in many aspects since the game doesn't bring anything new and no matter what play style you will choose it will feel lacking. You might even question why there is the possibility to mod weapons when it practically does nothing? That goes to perks and leveling too. The game is buggy but many got fixed already. Still some bugs will make it impossible for you to proceed and you might need to replay, see if it lets you continue. The game seems to have performance issues. The recommended specs are more like minimum ones. It might be worth waiting till CDPR fixes all the issues and maybe even changes/adds some content. 7/10

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Pistol Whip

Pistol Whip is a game that caught my eye quite some time ago but 25 price tag was something I wasn't willing to pay for it. While browsing Oculus store though I noticed I could download the game for free and try it out. 5 minutes in I was sure I'd actually snap buy this game.

No description of the game can actually prepare you for how cool the game actually is. You might read reviews that state this is Beat Saber and Superhot combined. I couldn't imagine how these two games would actually create a different game but after putting some thought in it and actually experiencing the game I came to the same conclusion. (my view on Beat Saber and Superhot is different than what you'll probably read in reviews so I had to change my point of view quite a lot)

Pistol Whip is a first person shooter with a twist or two. It's an FPS game in terms of you actually shooting enemies but it's nothing like Counter Strike. You 'fly' through a level automatically and dodge enemy shots and shoot at enemies that fired those. The first (Beat Saber-ish) twist is that in order to get a good score you actually need to shoot on beat. For those that are used to shoot on sight this is something that may take a while getting used to. You need to shoot at a specific moment that you can hear unless you are rhythm deaf like me. The second (Superhot-ish) twist is avoiding bullets. In this game the bullets shot at you do not travel fast. They travel rather slowly and you have a lot of time to spot them and dodge them. This can result in very Matrix-like motion and actually it feels that great too. Your body might not be accustomed to these movements so it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll feel sore the next day wondering what muscles you used to play this game.

If you wonder why this game is named Pistol Whip, you can actual pistol whip your enemies when they are close which nets you the maximum points for the kill. This is rarely used though with the exception of one level/map.

There are several songs you can play each having 3 difficulties - easy, normal, hard. With each difficulty the number of enemies gets higher which means more shooting and more avoiding bullets. If playing on hard is too easy you can turn on some mods that will make the game more difficult and it will provide you harder or different challenge (there are mods that can make it easier as well).

Recently, a cinematic campaign was added for free and I have to say that this content is really great. It takes 25 minutes to go through, has a story and a nice boss fight in the last stage. It shows the true potential of the game and I hope more content like this whether free or paid will follow.

Verdict: Pistol Whip is a good combination of shooting and a rhythm-based game. The content was rather limited at launch but several songs and a cinematic campaign were added, all for free, which now makes it worth the 25 bucks I paid for it. The music genre I'd probably describe as EDM. All the songs sound very similar to me. If you like playing rhythm games to enjoy the music you should probably check out the music. first. Getting good at Pistol Whip means playing over and over the several limited number of tracks, not liking the music may make the experience not that great.

I'd say that this is a perfect game for parties and introducing people to VR because the game is easy to play (thanks to assisted aiming anyone can hit) and probably won't cause much motion sickness since there is no locomotion involved.

It's a fun game, nice workout and it takes a while to master if that's what you want.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Westworld Awakening

I've read mixed reviews about this game and wasn't really sure if paying 30 for this game would be worth it because as it seems this game is hit or miss.

Nonetheless I was still too curious to not to try it. I love Westworld (even though I'm not really a fan of the last season). On the other hand I don't seek out horror games and especially don't look for stealth games. I'm really bad at those. I expected a game I wouldn't like. I was wrong though.

Westworld Awakening is a story-driven game and it is about the experience rather than game play mechanics. The game is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is more of an introduction and there is not that much of interaction. On the other hand it shows pretty much what to expect from the game. In the second chapter you can explore and 'interact' with the world. After that comes the first real stealth part which may be long if you are afraid or pretty short if you just go and do what needs to be done. Honestly I spent 20 minutes cowering in fear under the table (the next time I played it, I spent 5 minutes there).

Visually the game is atmospheric and was stunning to me. The sound effects, voice acting, animation/acting and facial expressions are really great. The way the story is told is also great. There are many references around and you can enjoy walking around in places you saw on the show. The game is a bit dark though and that is how I missed a corridor or collided with some objects while trying to run away from Hank.

The gameplay can get repetitive. You get exploration part and stealth part which practically means you need to hide behind or under something. It is not difficult though. Hank is pretty dense, same goes to the soldiers. Don't take me wrong I don't want to complain about the difficulty. I was glad about how easy it was because otherwise I'd become frustrated.

What you get is a simple story of Kate, a host that was playing a murder victim for years, who becomes aware and tries to escape into the human world. First you see through her eyes in the park, later you woke up aware in Delos. You are not the only one who woke up and among those people there is Hank, the host programmed to hunt your family and kill you all - you as Kate being the last one. You try to escape and you are helped by others that give you instructions what to do.

There are probably many things that people may not like. First of all, the game is not really realistic. It doesn't follow much logic.

The default locomotion is terrible from my point of view. Holding two buttons while swinging arms is pretty bad while you also want to use your tablet. Fortunately you can switch the locomotion type in the settings.

Hank apart from saying the same phrases over and over is rather dense. You can often just run in front of him and hide under a table and he suddenly stops seeing you. In general the places you can hide are in plain sight etc. You can hide in a corner of a room for example and not be spotted. Honestly I was glad it was this way otherwise I'm not sure if I could play the game.

You are being given instructions all the time. If you don't figure something out in time, someone will tell you what to do or the game will show it in blinding light. This was a bit annoying when I wanted to just look around.

You can only interact with key items and some other items. You can't interact with drawers for example or tables or anything. Most objects are simply static.

Westworld Awakening is a relatively short (several hours) well done story-driven game with simple and rather repetitive gameplay. It offers an atmospheric experience from the Westworld setting which can be fully appreciated only after watching the first 2 seasons of Westworld series.

The locomotion choices are good even though it does not offer teleportation. I think this would make the whole experience worse as this allows for being more immersed in a 'survival horror' story.

One of the reasons why people may not be interested in playing this game is the survival horror aspect. The game though is not difficult, no need to be an expert in stealth so I found it well-balanced.

I'd recommend this game for people who like Westworld and like story-driven games or experiences and don't mind being killed with an axe and hiding under the table for few minutes during each chapter.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

I also recorded the game, so if you want to check it out here's Chapter 2 - the chapter I spent most time under the table because I was afraid.

Here is a bonus video (for those who can listen to someone not being able to play the piano). After hearing the main theme over and over I decided to see if I can play it on the piano. If I give it more time it might actually sound the way it should.