Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: Sudden Sony Strike

Sup’ my gaming brothers and sisters! Yup, it’s another Weekend Whammy where I spout nonsense and then question all my life choices leading up to this moment in time. I haven’t put out any reviews, so instead I’ll just be jumping straight into the news this week because Sony decided to just go nuts all of a sudden. But I did put out the second part of Best of Xbox Game Pass and thus you should go and read it. Go on. Go do it. Go. GO!

Sony had an interesting week, choosing to reveal a bunch of tantalising information in a random interview with GQ. Even GQ seemed quite surprised, apparently having only been offered the interview a week prior to it going live and with zero idea of what the topics were going to be. Before the interview even begins, though, GQ drops a hell of a piece of information; “What about PlayStation games on PC? A whole slate of them is on the way starting with Days Gone this spring.”

When GQ asked Sony big shot Jim Ryan what had changed regarding Sony’s attitude toward PC gaming, he stated that, “A few things changed. We find ourselves now in early 2021 with our development studios and the games that they make in better shape than they’ve ever been before. Particularly from the latter half of the PS4 cycle our studios made some wonderful, great games. There’s an opportunity to expose those great games to a wider audience and recognise the economics of game development, which are not always straightforward. The cost of making games goes up with each cycle, as the calibre of the IP has improved. Also, our ease of making it available to non-console owners has grown. So it’s a fairly straightforward decision for us to make.”

This isn’t the first time Sony has dipped its toes into the PC paddling pool. 2020 saw the release of Death Stranding on PC, and while it wasn’t a proper first-party Sony title it was obviously a tester. Horizon: Zero Dawn followed that and the game currently holds a “very positive” rating on Steam.

Days Gone was, in my opinion, a really good game, and it’s a smart choice to head up the new wave of Playstation games heading to PC because while Days Gone sold quite well, it didn’t sell that well compared to other first-party Sony games like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man, so it makes sense to bring it to PC and widen the potential audience.

Now the question is obvious: what other games will Sony bring to PC? And will they be willing to bring over the truly big hitters, such as angry bald guy with a temper and the webbed wonder? Or will Sony consider putting their relatively weaker games on PC while holding back the best the Playstation has to offer in order to tempt players to buy a console? Personally, I think God of War will come to PC, but not soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if they held that back until the next game in the series comes along and use it to lure PC players into the brilliance of God of War, and once they’re hooked they might be open to buying a console to play the new God of War.

During the interview Jim Ryan also revealed that Sony aren’t giving up on virtual reality, making me a very happy wolf in the process. The original PS VR sold over 5-million units, and while that wasn’t a huge number considering there was over 100-million PS4s in the wild, it seems Sony were still pretty happy with it.

“We believe in VR and have been extremely happy with the results with the present PlayStation VR and think that we will do good business with our new VR system for PlayStation 5. More importantly, we see it as something beyond this coming iteration that really could be really big and really important. We like to innovate; we think our community likes us to innovate. I’d turn around the question and say, “Why not?” For us, it’s a very logical step to take. We’re very excited by it and we think that people who are going to make VR games for our new VR system are going to be very excited too,” stated Ryan.

We did get a little bit of information about what the new PS VR system would be like, starting with the fact that there’s just going to be a single cable this time, and while it wasn’t expressely mentioned it looks like there won’t be a seperate processing unit as well. This makes setting up the PS VR a lot quicker and neater compared to the previous generation which had multiple wires and a seperate box.

I’ve seen a lot of comments mention how they had really hoped it would be a wireless headset. That’s absolutely the dream scenario, but I wanted to delve deeper into this and try to explaing why this wasn’t a likely scenario. Basically, there are currently two ways of doing a wireless VR headset; the first is to stream the game from the system to the headset. Currently, to the best of my knowledge, there are no headsets that do this natively, but there are workarounds and a couple of third-party pieces of hardware that can let you stream games. The issue here is that streaming is often inconsistent regardless of whether you stream over your wi-fi or directly to the headset via some sort of dongle. That means there’s the potential for stuttering and latency issues, both of which are very problematic in VR where feeling sick is a very real danger. VR developers work hard to ensure nice, steady framerates, after all. Then there’s the loss of visual quality that comes with streaming, which is again a pretty noticable thing in VR since your eyeballs are almost rammed up against the screen. And then finally, there’s the extra cost of building this kind of functionality into the headset, and I imagine Sony are going to want to keep this thing affordable like the did with the previous PS VR unit.

The second method of having a wireless VR headset is the Oculus Quest system whereby you actually install the games directly into the headset. This is pretty cool but the limitations are obvious: the games are limited by the hardware in the headset, rather than the power of the PS5. Oculus gets around this by having their Link system that lets you hook up a cable from the headset to your PC so that you can run games straight from the computer to the headset, obviously opening up a lot more possibilties. Again, though, this would raise the cost of the PS VR headset since Sony would have to design it with decent integrated hardware, and that would mean accepting that it would be held back quite a lot unless they also design it to be optionally hooked up to the PS5. It’s an inelegant solution to the problem.

So, yeah, the dream of a powerful wireless headset is awesome, but expensive. For now, then, I think having a single wire is the best compromise to the problem, one that doesn’t massively increase the cost or hold the headset back.

According to Jim Ryan, developer kits for the new PS VR headset have just started going on, so that’s pretty exciting. We’ve got no idea what the specs will be, though, and will have to wait for that information.

Following up on this there was a State of Play for Playstation which was devoid of much in the way of big hitters like Horizon: Forbidden West or Ratch & Clank: Rift in Time, but that still showed off some cool stuff. For example, Crash Bandicoot 4 is getting a free PS5 upgrade that promises that magical 4k 60FPS, plus reactive triggers and fast loading times. We got some sweet gameplay of Deathloop, the new game from Arkane which I’m very excited about due to the developer’s wicked work on Dishonored and Prey. Perhaps the coolest bit of news, in my estimation, anyway, is that Oddworld: Soulstorm is going to be free for PS5 owners when it launches on April 6th. So far as one of the lucky sods that got a PS5, I can’t complain with the stuff I’ve been given via PSN.

One game that did get me weirdly excited during the State of Play is a new Hotwheels game. The trailer looks kind of awesome and seems to hint at a track creation mode. And I really loved the moment when a car falls from the loop and lands on a table with a tiny, plastic thunk.

And then in a final kickass blow, Sony announced the free PSN games for March with Final Fantasy 7 Remake being the headliner. It’s a shame that this won’t be upgradable to the PS5 version, but even then, getting Final Fantasy 7 for free (well, sort of free, considering you pay for PSN) is pretty amazing. I’ve never touched a Final Fantasy game in my life, so this might just be my first one. On top of that, we’re also getting Remnant: From the Ashes, which is a sci-fi action game with a heavy dose of Soulsborne action and holds a great score of 79 on Opencritic. Meanwhile, PS5 owners are getting Maquette which describes itself as a recursive puzzle game. I don’t know much about it, but it seems to play around with perspective so that objects can be both tiny and huge depending on how you look at things. And finally, if you have PS VR you can get Farpoint for free, widely viewed as one of the best PS VR games around.

Both Farpoint and Remnant are constantly on sale, so getting them included isn’t a huge deal, but Final Fantasy 7 Remake is pretty awesome, even if you don’t get the free upgrade to the PS5 version that was recently announced. Overall, this is a good lineup, so remember to add these to your library when they pop up in March even if you don’t intend on playing them anytime soon.

A busy bloody week for Sony and Playstation, indeed, but amidst all the Playstation excitement came the news that Japan Studio is shutting down. The developer has been fairly erratic over the years in terms of releases, but under its belt has such excellence as Ape Escape and the utterly bonkers Kung Fu Rider. A lot Japan Studio’s work was in tandem with others. For example, they helped Blue Point on the recent Demon’s Souls, while the developers last wholly original game was Knack 2. It’s always a shame to see a company shut its doors, and I hope everyone at Japan Studio manages to either move over to somewhere else in Sony or are snapped up by someone else.

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