Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: Isolation, Next-Gem & Doom Eternal

It appears, my dear friends, that the world has gone a tiny bit mad. But I’m here to bless your horrible day with my mere presence, with my unadulterated brilliance! Alright, seriously, I hope you’ve been staying safe and looking after yourselves in these tricky times. Luckily we’ve got games to occupy ourselves with, so this week I’m chatting about Gamestop being stupid, Doom Eternal being awesome and next-gen consoles being delayed.

I did a bit of actual honest-to-God work this week and put out two reviews, the first being the adorably daft Dead or School. And the second review tackled the excellent TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2 which I reckon might be the best motorbike handling system ever. Fighting words, I know, but I’m going to stand by them, at least until I get bored and amble off to find some Wine Gums. So, like, five minutes. Tops.

Like the rest of the world at the moment I’ve been busy playing Doom Eternal non-stop, revelling in the gloriously gory combat it offers and the welcome break from reality it provides. It’s a terrific, but one I don’t think is better than Doom 2016 – rather, I think it’s simply different and you’re going to wind up strongly preferring one or the other. That’s because Doom Eternal is a much more complicated game than its predecessor, and thus there’s a lot I have to say about what works and what doesn’t. I’m looking forward to writing what will hopefully be a thoughtful, smart review for you fine folks, although we all know the reality is that I’ll spew a bunch of nonsensical word-vomit onto a page and then collapse in a drunken stupor. It’s the thought that counts, though, right?

Random story about Doom Eternal; I actually got sent review code for the game on Xbox One about a week before it was due to launch. So why no review? Well, I have my internet with Three Mobile where I use a router and a SIM card with unlimited data, because out here in the countryside the standard broadband is utterly useless. For the most part Three’s service has worked great, boosting my speeds from a measly 4-5MB average to 20-25MB. However, due to what Three are telling me is an “unplanned” upgrade to their network large downloads on Xbox won’t work. So I spent a week hoping they’d get the problem fixed, and then a day before launch I gave up, raided my pitiful savings and bought the game on PC instead. This is also why I’ve not reviewed Ori & The Will of the Wisp. With any luck I’ll review it down the line

Speaking of Doom, let’s just all take a minute and remember that glorious time in 2016 where the Game Awards suddenly turned into a mosh pit. Ah, those were simpler, better times.

I’ve also been eyeing up the backlog of games I’ve got, especially a bunch of the PS4 exclusives like Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Last of Us. Ratchet & Clank is also calling me, it’s lovely bright visuals and happy-go-lucky nature being very appealing in these bleak times.

With GDC, E3 and all the other gaming events cancelled we treated to both Microsoft and Sony revealing the specs of their respective next-gen consoles. Microsoft delivered the information in a more playful style and even showed off a few games running on the hardware, while Sony went for something that felt like it was aimed at developers more than the general audience. It’s clear that their conference was meant to be for the GDC audience. Regardless, what we learned is both consoles are reasonably similar in specification, but the Xbox Series X is going to be boasting the most raw power. Sony seem to be focusing on getting more out of less, so that might translate to less power usage and a smaller price-tag than the Xbox.

Both consoles are pushing their SSDs hard with promises of load times being a thing of the past and nearly instant swapping between games and applications. The Xbox Series X will be offering a 1TB drive, plus the ability to expand the storage with proprietary memory cards. This is where the PS5 has a big advantage, though, as its SSD is going to be capable of an IO throughput speed of 5.5GBs of raw data, and 8-9GBs of compressed data. Not only does this mean vastly quicker loading times, but it also allows developers a huge amount of freedom when it comes to designing worlds. For example, in Marvel’s Spider-Man the speed at which you could swing through the city was dictated by how fast everything could be loaded in from the hard drive, a hard drive only capable of 50-100MBps. It should also mean developers won’t have to employ other tricks like twisting corridors and elevators to hide levels being loaded in. Think all those times Lara Croft squeezes through a small tunnel in Tomb Raider – yes, it can look cool, but mostly that’s done to allow everything to be loaded into place.

Like the Xbox Series X the PS5 will feature a slot to expand storage, but unlike Microsoft’s device you’ll be able to use any NVME. With that said Sony will be recommending you only use drives verified by themselves. It raises an interesting question: what happens if you use a slower drive? How will developers handle that possibility? As it stands the Xbox’s SSD will be vastly slower to the PS5’s, so multiplatform titles will have to be designed around that disparity. It’ll be Sony exclusives where we really get to see the SSD put through its paces properly.

I think now the big question is whether either console will actually launch this year. Both Microsoft and Sony are still planning on getting their machines to market in 2020, but I have my doubts. I think we a 2021 launch for both consoles is likely, especially since Sony were already having some trouble sourcing parts even before Covid-19 slammed into the planet like Miley Cyrus riding a wrecking ball. We also have to consider whether next-gen games could get heavily delayed by Covid-19 and how that might effect the new consoles. What’s the point of launching a new console if there’s nothing out to play on it?

As for which console I prefer at the moment, the PS5 still has the advantage in my eyes due to potential exclusives titles. We aren’t going to be getting any Xbox One Series X exclusive games for at least a year, although Microsoft do have a great selling point in that the new Xbox will be completely backwards compatible. Sony’s machine will only be able backwards compatible with PS4 games.

For more information from people vastly smarter than myself go check out Digital Foundry’s breakdown of the PS5 and the Xbox One Series X.

On the stupid side of the news over the past few weeks we have Gamestop over in America who attempted to the claim that they were “essential” stores to avoid orders close down amidst the Coronavirus. Basically, in certain states all stores are being told to shut up shot apart from those deemed essential, like food stores and Pharmacies and the like. In a move so audaciously fucking dumb it boggles the mind, the higher-ups of Gamestop issued a statement to their stores declaring that, “due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time.” Worse, they told the employees to ignore any commands to shut down their shop, putting those employees in a terrible legal position.

According to employees of the store the real reason for staying open was simply a case of money. With millions of people currently being told to stay at home games are more popular than ever, and Gamestop wanted to take advantage of the situation.

I’d like to say that Gamestop saw sense because they’ve now announced that they are shutting their stores down, but it’s more likely because Gamestop have received a huge backlash against their dangerous and idiotic behaviour from the public, their employees and various states.

Finally, I’d like to give a quick word on the Covid-19 situation here in the UK. In the next few days I’ll be getting a letter from the government telling me that I’m one of the 1.5-million most vulnerable and that I should be staying inside as much as possible for the next twelve weeks. Luckily, that doesn’t change anything for me in terms of this website, so I’ll still be posting reviews and writing nonsense. To be fair, I’m not a big social person anyways, so this is just a fantastic excuse to binge all the books and movies I’ve been meaning to catch up on.

Speaking of which, I watched Ready or Not last night, a horror-comedy where a newly married woman finds herself having to play a game of hide and seek with her new extended family. Problem is, they intend on killing her in the name of Mr. Le Bail, a mysterious entity who the family believes is responsible for their vast gaming empire. If you love goofball horror films like I do with a dash of gore then I’d really recommend Ready or Not. It’s nothing spectacular but it is a bloody good time with a cast of excellent characters, terrific performances and some moments that genuinely made me laugh out loud.

As for you guys, stay safe out there. Lots of people are currently ignoring the social distancing advice here in the UK which could force the government to lock the country down completely. Don’t be one of those arseholes: be smart, be considerate of those around you. Risking your own life is fine, that’s your choice, but in cases like this ignoring the danger means putting other people are horrible risk. Wash your hands, don’t attend any gatherings, stay a safe distance from other people and help out the community where you can. We’ve been given a chance to help the world by sitting at home playing games, so let’s not mess it up.

Stay safe, friends.

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