Monthly Archives: April 2014

inFamous Second Son: a game where the Dualshock 4 controller plays an important role

Street art: You use the PlayStation 4's Dualshock 4 controller as a makeshift spray can to decorate inFamous Second Son's rendition of Seattle.

Street art: You use the PlayStation 4’s Dualshock 4 controller as a makeshift spray can to decorate inFamous Second Son’s rendition of Seattle.

When Delsin Rowe, the Native American Indian hero (or anti-hero, depending on whether you play it as a good guy or a bad guy) in Sucker Punch’s inFamous Second Son, first comes across a piece of pristine concrete just begging to be tagged, you get a chance to use the PlayStation 4’s Dualshock 4 controller in a most unlikely – but sensible – way.

You’re prompted to tilt to controller then shake it – as if you’re shaking an aerosol can, mixing the paint (you even hear the sound that the ball bearing inside an aerosol can makes when you shake a real aerosol can). You then keep the controller upright as you press the R2 button and spray paint over stencils, creating the tag that will decorate the wall. “A man, a plan and an aerosol can,” he says after completing each artwork.

Holding the Dualshock 4 like a spray can isn’t the first time you realise that Sucker Punch are going all out to use as many of the PS4 controller’s functions as they can, though.

Not long after the game has started (and Delsin has attained his first power) Delsin and his brother Reggie have to be scanned at a Department of Unified Protection (DUP) checkpoint before they can enter the streets of Seattle, where the game is set. Players are told to place a finger on the DS4 controller’s touchpad the move it to match an on-screen representation of a hand. It a sign that developer Sucker Punch aren’t happy with sticking with the basics on its first PlayStation 4 game.

There are other uses of the controller’s functionality, much of it using its built-in speaker. When Delsin’s mobile phone rings, the ringtone is audible through the speaker. During one mission where Delsin has to inspect a discarded DUP helmet, radio chatter from the helmet sounds out from the controller speaker, too. And if that wasn’t enough: When Delsin replenishes a power the sucking sound is – you guessed it – broadcast through the controller’s speaker. It’s wild.

And you know how you can play the game as a hero or a bad dude, your karma changing depending on which way you behave? Well, the light bar on the controller will change colour, depending on how your tracking in terms of goodness or badness: Blue for good, red for bad.

I’m pleased to see what Sucker Punch are doing with the PS4’s controller as this is what developers should be giving us in the current-generation of consoles, not just giving us what we had in the previous generation. Developers that give me new experiences will get my money.

So, I’m impressed with some of the tech behind the game but how am I finding the game itself?

Overall, I’m enjoying inFamous Second Son – the second half is definitely better than the first – but the powers Delsin gets as the game progresses are impressive, especially the final two. The last two powers really are great fun and can turn the tide in battle.

I’m spending a lot of time actually tootling around the city, freeing districts from the tyranny of the DUP in Showdown missions, hunting down blast shards to upgrade Delsin’s powers, saving harassed conduits being beaten by citizens, finding disguised DUP agents, and generally just exploring the city. That said, apparently I’m just about to encounter the game’s main boss for the second – and final – time so it seems I’ve almost completed it.

So, how are you finding inFamous Second Son?

Update: I’m now facing off against the main boss in the final showdown. So far, it’s been pretty brutal.

Update number two: I just defeated the final boss and completed the game. While I thought some of the boss fights had an unfair difficulty spike (one called enormous DUP agent springs to mind), it was a fun game. Now, I’m off to 100 per cent it!

Update number three: I forgot to mention that Second Son is the first game where I’ve tried out the remote play feature using the PS4. It works extremely well, although you’ll have to get to grips with a different control scheme given that the Vita doesn’t have physical L2 and R2 buttons. And apart from text often being too small to read properly (or maybe it’s my eyesight), it’s impressive being able to play a PS4 game using my PS Vita, while my wife watches her evening soap opera!

 

 

 

 

 

Two thumbs up to Sony for shrinking Sly Cooper

The Sly Trilogy

From: Sanzaru Games

For: PlayStation Vita

RRP: $55 (physical copy after a search of online retailers)

Before Cole McGrath, Delsin Rowe and the inFamous series came along and swept the PlayStation world by storm, developer Sucker Punch was more well-known for its game series featuring master thief Sly Cooper – a trio of games that appeared on Sony’s PlayStation 2 console.

Pint-sized criminal: Sly Racoon has been shrunk for Sony's PS Vita handheld.

Pint-sized criminal: Sly Racoon has been shrunk for Sony’s PS Vita handheld.

Although I got the PS2 late in its life cycle, I was fortunate  enough to play the Sly Cooper series – and loved them. They were the perfect mix of platforming action combined with humour and great looks. Now, all three have been shrink wrapped into one package for the PS Vita, and this could well be one of the best things Sony’s done for its handheld console.

Featuring master thief Sly and his sidekicks Bentley the turtle (the brains) and Murray the hippo (the brawns), the trio appeared in three games: Sly Racoon, Sly 2: Band of Thieves and Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves and they were great games, featuring exotic locations, dastardly villains and some genuinely funny moments. In 2010, the games were ported to the PlayStation 3 by Sanzaru Games, and went down a hit with fans of the franchise.

Of the three, Sly 1 was probably the weakest – and it’s the same here with this Vita port. Sly 1 saw Sly, Bentley and Murray having to retrieve a Cooper family heirloom – the Thievious Racoonus – from a band of rival thieves (led by a mechanical owl).

Perhaps the best game of the trilogy is Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves as not only does it look the best it also makes the most of the Vita’s touch capabilities: Namely the back touch pad to activate an in-game GPS-like ping – used so that Sly knows which direction to go. It’s simple and it works. The front screen is also used to activate Sly’s binoculars or Bentley’s tranquilizer dart.
2013-12-10-195128_1396878187The Trilogy looks great on the Vita, with the series’ trademark cartoony look vibrant and colourful on the handheld’s OLED screen. The only downside with the graphics I could see was during the cut scenes, where there’s some low resolution compression making itself present.

For a series that first appeared in 2002, Sly Racoon has become one of Sony’s most recognisable mascots, much like Crash Bandicoot, Jax and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank, and while to the cynical this could be seen as Sony just  re-issuing old games with a new lick of paint, it’s a great opportunity to play a great series for those who missed out first time around.

Oh, and as if in a nod to its heritage and how much it owes to Sly Cooper,  in Sucker Punch’s latest game, inFamous Second Son, there are a few hidden references to the Sly games. I won’t reveal where they are but if you’ve got Second Son, explore and see what you stumble across.

 

 

Fez review: Weird and mesmerising but a must-play

Fez: a game that started out on consoles and PC but seems perfectly suited to the handheld format.

Fez: a game that started out on consoles and PC but seems perfectly suited to the handheld format.

Say what you like about Fez creator Phil Fish (who spectacularly quit the game development industry last year and cancelled Fez 2 after a Twitter spat), indie game Fez is one of those games that is a delight to play, not only because of its twisted perspective but thanks to its 16-bit graphics style and some innovative game play features.

Fez was one of my most favoured games of 2012 and with the move to the PS Vita, I think it’s perfectly suited to the handheld.

The game sees main character Gomez in a flat 2D world but after stumbling across a giant gold polyhedron suddenly finds he can view the world in 3D. However, the polyhedron is shattered, the 32 cubes it’s made up from scattered about the game world and it’s up to Gomez to find them all, bringing order back to the world.

At first, Fez seems a simple 2D/3D puzzle game where the player guide’s a pixelated hero from place to place, collecting the shards from the exploded polyhedron, but then in an instant, thanks to the ability to rotate the game world 90 degrees creating a 3D playspace, the game opens up new possibilities to tackle problems.

But how?, I hear you ask. Like this: being able to change perspective on-the-fly using the Vita’s left and right shoulder buttons means suddenly a platform that was moments ago out of reach is now accessible. It’s mind-boggling and means that jumps that were seemingly unreachable before are suddenly much closer when you rotate perspective.  In a world punctuated by waterfalls, lighthouses, shacks and precarious drops, and where entering one door can lead to a completely different dimension, a change in perspective can literally mean the difference between one step closer to a wayward cube and a drop to the depths below.

Fez is a game that can be mesmerising and confusing at the same time, and often that confusion can lead to some frustration, especially when you get lost and aren’t really sure where you should go next. Some of the puzzles, too, might see you scratching your head (there’s one with a bell early on) and heading online for a walk through to help you solve them.

Minor frustrations aside, Fez was one of my most loved games when it came out on console and PC and now that it’s out on Vita, I can see it being one of my most loved and most played on Sony’s handheld. Fez + PS Vita = a gaming partnership worth discovering.

 

 

Kinect Sports Rivals: stand in your lounge & wave your arms around

I’ve been riding a jet ski in my lounge room for the past couple of nights.

Now before you do another “Whaaaat?”, I haven’t been riding a real jet ski in my lounge, but a virtual one thanks to Microsoft and Kinect Sports Rivals , an Xbox One game that puts a sports arena at your fingertips.

Set on a sporting paradise simply called The Island, Kinect Sports Rivals is a game where you jump and wave your arms in from of the Kinect camera in an effort to taste victory in six sports, including rock climb, soccer, wave runners and tennis.

I haven’t played enough of the game yet to do a proper review but I want to touch on the tech behind the game, which uses the Xbox One’s improved Kinect camera to take a full body scan of the player before you start playing  – and the result is pretty damn impressive, actually.

Hey, it's me: My Kinect Sports Rivals avatar as captured by the Xbox One's Kinect camera.

Hey, it’s me: My Kinect Sports Rivals avatar as captured by the Xbox One’s Kinect camera.

When the game starts, its narrator – former Dr Who star David Tennant – asks you to stand in front of the Kinect camera, which then scans your body and face. During the face scan you have to move your head up and down and to the let and right.

Once it’s obtained all the information it needs, you see pixels materialise into the shape of a person. It’s creating your virtual character. This is when you get to see whether the scan looks like you or not.

The first scan didn’t do too well, giving me glasses and a beard, but to be fair, it was due to the abysmally poor lighting in the room that I’ve temporarily got the Xbox One set up in.

A scan the following day with full sunlight streaming into the room  was much more successful. You can see a picture of my virtual sports star in this blog. Look to your right.

During the creation process and your face is just a mass of pixels, the narrator urges your to smile, frown and make faces to see that the on-screen face will move with your facial movements.

Down to the final product, then. While it’s not a pixel perfect representation of what my face looks like, I can definitely see elements of my face in my Kinect Sports Rivals avatar, so it’s succeeded in that regard (sadly, I don’t have a chiselled chin and piercing blue eyes). I’m wearing some sort of skin-tight body suit which can be upgraded as I progress through the game.

I’ll get a review up as soon as I can (we’re about to move into a motel for four nights until our earthquake-damaged home is finished getting repaired) but I thought I’d just show you what the new Kinect is capable of when it comes to scanning people.