BACKLOG 3/13/19: The 90’s retrovirus, point blank physics, and mild devastation.

BACKLOG is a “whenever the fuck I feel like it” video game blog feature focusing on how I’m progressing through games, old and new, that are stuck in my ‘to do’ bin. Here I’ll generally update my progress in any and all games I’ve touched in the past month. This includes updates on reviews I’m writing, games I’m looking forward to, thoughts I’ve had, and things I’ve purchased.

No doubt putting off a BACKLOG entry for two months has been with good reason: I don’t have anything wildly new or interesting in my hands that I want to pour over and the games I’ve been playing basically suck. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey left a bitter taste in my mouth despite having some fun with it and since then I’ve been streaming a (now finished) first playthrough of Resident Evil HD Remake on YouTube while slowly working my way through the very flawed, very shitty mess that is Immortal: Unchained. I also finished Transformers: Devastation and played several matches of Dota 2 after the new hero released, so I’ll have reviews for Resident Evil and Transformers to fill in much of this entry. Before I dig into those largely average-to-mediocre games that’d been stuck on my backlog I figured I’d include some thoughts on upcoming games at the start of BACKLOG from now on, instead of leaving a small note at the very end of the post.

In the very near future there exists the promise of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice a game that I will play throughout April. I have watched about 10 minutes of gameplay and two trailers and I’m pretty much set until I can get my hands on it when it releases. I’m not entirely surprised that I haven’t bought any other games this year because most of what has been released has been absolute fucking garbage! Anthem? Tetris? Devil May Cry 5? Far Cry 5: Reskinned? ToeJam & EarlApex Legends? Man, seriously I had to search “Titanfall thing” to even remember whatever generic bullshit that ‘battle royale’ garbage was named. Fucking hell, was a remake of Resident Evil 2 the only decent thing worth talking about in three months of 2019, or am I just hesitating too much in buying Metro: Exodus because it looks generic? Otherwise 2019 has started to look bleak beyond Sekiro as everything I’ve seen of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is embarrassing anime dogshit and I’ll reserve some doubts as to the quality of The Surge 2. So, what next?

Well, hey the obvious choice is to focus on the backlog of stuff I’ve bought. Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Persona 5 are what I’ve decided on next. If those don’t pan out two choices spring to mind: Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Outer Worlds. Days Gone releases in late April and I’d have to wait until I know what it even is, I’m not interested in the biker dip-shit open world zombie horde game it looked like two years ago. Anyhow, you’ll have to excuse me if 2019 ends and I’ve only bought about five new games. In the meantime I’ve been demoing different video formats for retro games and ultimately feel like its all been done before, though I am working on doing the Quick Try series again in a different format, while finishing the rest of the Sega Genesis/CD/32X era stuff.

Resident Evil®_20190224155635

Resident Evil: HD Remaster (2015, PS4) REVIEW

How badly are you itching to get my thoughts on an upscaled HD resolution version of a 2002 Gamecube remake of a 1996 Playstation game? Well, this was the first time I’ve ever played the first Resident Evil game and I figured I would give it a full playthrough after watching some reviews for the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2. This was free on Playstation Plus a while back and I’d always meant to give this game a try. What kept me from ever getting past the first two screens of the game since 1996? Controls, static backgrounds, awful camera control, ugly 3D models, and all of this from the perspective of someone who wouldn’t really start giving Resident Evil a chance until Resident Evil: Code Veronica came out to much acclaim on the Dreamcast. It was free and still maintains its reputation as a flawed classic so, why not? I mean, I could list a host of reasons not to play it that will become obvious if you [CLICK/TAP here to watch the full playthrough on YouTube].

Yes, I played on an easier difficulty where enemies took fewer hits. I’ve never found this type of game interesting from the ‘survival horror’ aspect so much as the simple puzzle game mixed with classic adventure game tropes. The value of the original game really wasn’t in its difficulty so much as the mildly complex web of puzzles that lead you down a fairly intuitive path through the game. I totally see the lasting appeal of this game as it reminded me of playing Alone in the Dark and Silent Hill as a kid and figuring my way through pretty obscure puzzles that rely on deduction skills more often than not. I played this game without looking up hints and I’d never actually played through more than the first 10 minutes of the game before, by the time it came out most of my friends with Playstations already had Resident Evil 2 and it was a superior game by all accounts. So, I for sure had fun with this game and honestly nostalgia for mechanics actually made it more interesting than it should have been.

Saving at typewriters, examining items, backtracking constantly, and a couple of cheap instant deaths are huge pluses for someone like me who grew up playing the peak of weirdly flawed, non-intuitive Japanese game design. I really do relish in the obfuscation of otherwise linear game design and this comes from playing JRPGs, action-platformers, and overly difficult arcade games as a kid. So, when Resident Evil asks me to do a set of five things to get to the next thing which has five more things to do that lead to a larger list of five things I have to do to get to the next major plot point I happily make that mental checklist. It is good exercise for the brain when things aren’t completely spelled out for you, and I wholly appreciate how this sensibility holds up despite the complete fucking garbage graphics and camera design.

As a fellow who happily played through every PSX Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy, and hold-over Playstation 2 titles like God of War, Onimusha, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, Rygar, and Koudelka (for fuck’s sake!) I am not opposed to the idea of a fixed, faux dynamic camera in a game that features pre-rendered two dimensional backgrounds. It is a style that often came with terrible controls and there was always an issue of perspective in each title but I am not as sour on that era of video games as many are today in hindsight. That said Resident Evil is the absolute worst offender [eh, actually it is Soul of Samurai!] and you can quickly see that I’d have trouble just running through areas casually because the free movement of the character added in the 2002 Gamecube remake still don’t work in this virtually unchanged Playstation 4 release. The issue seems to stem from the 16:9 perspective and how they’ve chosen to stretch and weave together these elements to make up for the fact that these backgrounds were meant for a 4:3 aspect ratio. While it does look much better than any other version of this game the constant camera shifts made for a frustrating adventure. By lowering the difficulty I think I mitigated any persistent frustration with the game and I was able to focus on the puzzle and exploration aspects of the game instead of fearing combat and ammunition shortages.

Yep, didn’t really take any screenshots. Here’s me stickin’ a knife into a red-eye’s frickin’ skull.

I figured that playing this game would serve as a reasonable gauge for my interest in revisiting the series. They’re very cheap games and most of the series and spin-offs are available except Resident Evil III: Nemesis which is fine because that game is convoluted and frustrating as it tries to top the tension of the second game. Did it convince me to buy Resident Evil II Remake? No, as I’ve realized they are massively different games and the remake of the second game essentially gives you a Resident Evil 4 set of controls and a completely new game as a result. I also want to factor in that my interest in the games progression really died down after the first 8-10 hours after backtracking and some less than clever boss fights had me wondering why I’d bothered in the first place. Things picked up once I’d moved beyond the underground caverns and into the Umbrella Facility beneath the fountain but it turned out to be such a small and uninteresting area that focused on finishing off the very basic plot through notes and a couple of brief cut-scenes. I understand that some of this comes due to the limitations of the original Playstation but eh, I already know what happens next in Resident Evil II so there wasn’t a major ‘Whoa!’ moment at any point. I think I’m to the point where I can appreciate that late 90’s era of 3D game design and limited hardware without completely scoffing at it like an asshole, but this is a good enough revision of a remake of the original that I was happy it was playable and entertaining. I would actually recommend it, especially if you’d gotten it for free on PS+ and haven’t installed it yet.

Title: Resident Evil HD Remaster
Genre: Action/Adventure, Survival Horror
Released:  January 20, 2015 | Capcom
Platform(s) Reviewed: Playstation 4 [Digital Copy]
Score: 3.25/5.0

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20190106131815

Transformers: Devastation (2015, PS4) REVIEW

The history and reputation of PlatinumGames is completely over-stated within the mainstream video game press and if you’re not a fan of basic, combo-based stylish third person action games I’m guessing you might’ve had an experience similar to mine: You loved God Hand and Okami and followed the studio because they were the result of Clover Studios‘ closure and an exodus from Capcom‘s increasingly old fashioned garbage at the time. None of their products truly delivered upon that level of quirk and while Bayonetta is an impressive game, it really was a nonsensical riff on Devil May Cry the same way Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was. Even worse was their affiliation with the Wii U, a system that left me so starved for content I’d bought the incredibly braindead and horny Bayonetta 2 and the mind-numbingly repetitive Wonderful 101. I’d never been impressed with any of their shallow and short games but nonetheless I bought Transformers: Devastation entirely based on a preview that suggested it had RPG elements and a solid art style. Well, it technically does have those things if you consider random loot drops and various side-quests within missions as RPG elements.

I’m an idiot and barely have nostalgia for Transformers to begin with. Yes, I was a kid in the late 80’s and had some toys and watched the cartoons but none of that garbage holds up today. So, it turns out Transformers: Devastation is yet another stylish third person action game with combos, ratings, challenges, bosses, etc. in a mission based structure. It plays fast and loose, the combat relies on dodges like Bayonetta and you’re able to create a custom weapon load-out for a huge list of robots, with the option to upgrade weapons using various currencies. What I thought might be a solid 20 hour campaign can be ripped through in an afternoon if you can figure out the dodge timing fast enough. Yes, I played on an easier difficulty and yes I used a save file that I started back in 2015 to finish the game this time. I actually finished this game in January or so but found it so forgettable that I sat on any mention of it since. But hey, it isn’t all negativity from me today as I did have some fun with the moment-to-moment combat system.

Why get creative with a game that doesn’t ask you to? I stuck with Optimus Prime the entire game, I upgraded every weapon I got for him (axe, dual blasters and a cannon style blaster concurrently) to max and put every stat point I could manage into Optimus alone. Yep, turns out this was a smart move because it made the game a real cakewalk once I wrapped my head around all of the available mechanics and the timing of combat. Dodging creates a slowdown (a la ‘Witch Time’ in Bayonetta), this allows for combos into finishers and your meter builds towards special attacks from there. Because I’d put every resource into just one Autobot I was powerful enough to take down most enemies and bosses quickly. I figure the game itself was too straight forward and repetitive for me it did build my interest enough to give Nier: Automata a chance once I find it on sale. I wasn’t enticed to play on a harder difficulty or try any other characters but that depth is there for anyone willing to replay the campaign multiple times.

Not much else to say about this game, though I was originally hoping that this would be more similar to the Playstation 3/Xbox 360 era games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron in terms of storytelling and level design; This Devil May Cry style mission system is at least succinct and easy to rip through if you enjoy that style of combat and happen to like Transformers. For my own tastes I cannot recommend this game for purchase but again, it has been free on Playstation Plus so you might’ve added it to your pile and never tried it out, it is at least worth trying if only for the colorful cel-shaded look and decent enough attempt at RPG elements for the sake of replayability.

Title: Transformers: Devastation
Genre: Third-person Action, Beat ‘Em Up
Released:  October 6, 2015 | PlatinumGames
Platform(s) Reviewed: Playstation 4 [Digital Copy]
Score: 2.5/5.0

Immortal: Unchained_20190311234021

Immortal: Unchained (2018, PS4)

I had persisted through about five or six hours of Immortal: Unchained before I began to become unreasonably frustrated with the constant artificial difficulty spikes the game presents at completely irrational points in the overall progression of the game world. One moment you’re methodically mowing down hordes of enemies one at a time and sure, they’re dangerous and can kill you in 3-4 hits but you won’t be overwhelmed initially. Then suddenly you’ve got 40 exploding assholes landing on you, eight snipers that can teleport around you, and they can all shoot your ass dead if you get knocked to the ground. Apexion is where I am currently stuck because there appears no reasonable path forward and anytime I persist, I am slaughtered for any mistakes. I know that I have fallen off games like this before only to be surprised later (Demon’s Souls) but the problem with Immortal isn’t just the weird spikes of damage and insanely predictive enemy AI, it is that the game itself feels horrible to play and has been consistently ugly and generic to top things off.

This is an unnatural feat that doesn’t actually work in practice. To make a sub-par emulation of movement physics and perspective from the From Software stable of ‘Souls-like’ games and then simply stick a set of weak guns in the hands of the player makes for a savage mess of a gameplay experience. Why? This is horrible by the standards of modern third person shooters and it is a third person shooter by design with no cover system, slow-paced movement, and ridiculously tuned encounters. You can still get through maybe 3-4 boss fights through dodge skills and maybe running through areas to progress but I’ve hit such a wall in the game despite being the appropriate level that it seems I won’t be able to progress unless I grind out enemies and really focus on flawless encounters with enemy types (hoping the RNG won’t just flatten me). Immortal: Unchained is a brutally difficult game but not in a fair “Hey, my fault!” kind of way that defined those From Software games and their generally decent imitators thus far. Shoehorning weak third person shooting mechanics into a melee focused style of game really does make this a disaster to play and I’m not sure it is worth pushing through the hump hoping that there are no more ridiculous difficulty spikes ahead.

BACKLOG: Unfinished titles, in order of importance. % progress noted.

  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019, PS4) Pre-Ordered (March 22nd)
  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018, PS4) COMPLETED
  • Immortal: Unchained (2018, PS4) ~4-5 hours
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018, PS4) ~3 hours
  • Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (2018, PS4) ~4-5 hours
  • Transformers: Devastation (2014, PS4) COMPLETED
  • Resident Evil HD Remake (2015, PS4) COMPLETED
  • Dragon’s Crown Pro (2018, PS4) 0%
  • Yoku’s Island Express (2018, PC) 5%
  • Darkest Dungeon: Ancestral Edition (2018, PS4)
  • Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (2017, PS4) 5%
  • Captain Disaster in: Death has a Million Stomping Boots (PC)
  • Dishonored 2 (PS4) 5-10%
  • Persona 5 (2017, PS4) 10%
  • The Surge: A Walk in the Park DLC (PS4) 0%
  • Tales of Zestiria (PS4) ~1% (in first town across bridge)
  • Thief (PS4) 5%
  • Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PS4) 0%
  • The Technomancer (PS4) ~5% finished introduction
  • Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4) 0%
  • Mad Max (PC/PS4)
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC) 0% (restarting)

<strong>Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:</strong>

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.