Can an AMD FX8320 run Oculus Rift?

This was a question I’ve been asking a lot since I got my desktop last year, and after this weekend I can finally provide a definitive answer: Yes. At least, that’s the case for me, with a liquid cooled 8320 overclocked to 4.0GHz. I’ve been messing around with Oculus this weekend and it’s been a flawless experience on my PC. I’ve played SUPERHOT VR, Rec Room, Robo Recall, Fruit Ninja VR and Project Cars VR, and all ran perfectly. I just wanted to throw an answer to this question out there, because leading up to my Rift purchase the most I could find on Google were answers that sounded like more of a “maybe” than a definitive yes.

I’ll be writing more about my first real VR experience soon.

My specs, if you’re curious:

MSI 970A SLI Krait Edition (2 USB 3.1, 6 USB 2.0)
AMD FX8320 (OC 4.0GHz)
Corsair Hydro Series H55 120mm liquid cooler
Nvidia GTX 1060 Founders Edition
16GB 1866 G.SKILL Ripjaws X

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I’m really not into Mass Effect Andromeda

The Mass Effect series has provided some of my favorite moments of my entire ‘video game life’ (even Mass Effect 3!). Up until last night I was incredibly excited for Mass Effect Andromeda, and thought for sure I would be buying the game. The only decision I had yet to make was whether I’d get it for the Xbox One or PC. However, the two hours I spent with the 10 hour EA Access trial last night has almost entirely dissuaded me from buying the game.

Right off the bat I found myself annoyed with the writing. Not only was the set up a bore, but the dialogue between characters, both during cut scenes and during background conversations was cringe worthy. At one point one of my squad mates uttered something to the effect of “Did that hurt? YEAH BECAUSE I SHOT YOU IN THE FACE!”. I almost shut the Xbox off right then and there, but I decided to keep trudging through to see if anything exciting would happen. It never did.

My time on the first planet felt like nothing but busy work. Run here, then here, then here, Scan some things. Shoot some things. On and on. I know this isn’t wildly different from the other games, but at least on those games there’s a real sense of purpose. The whole Pathfinder concept just comes across as cheesy, right from the start. The opening dialogue trying to make the journey to Andromeda seem like some “grand adventure” just made me cringe, and as I spent more time as Ryder I wished there was a button Nier Automata style to just shoot myself in the head and get a game over screen.

To make matters worse, the combat just feels sloppy. I found it difficult to line up shots (kind of slow, but all over the place at the same time) which sucked because I had been playing Mass Effect 3 all week and loving how solid the combat feels in that game. The guns and abilities feel like they have very little bite, and there’s no satisfying “pop” as you drop enemies like there is in Mass Effect 2 and 3.

Even worse than the combat are the textures, animations and voice acting. The first planet isn’t very pretty to look at (a darn shame after spending time with Horizon Zero Dawn or even Breath of the Wild), but beyond the art style there are some incredibly flat, muddy and ugly textures (the dark matter particularly). The animations have probably been ragged on enough by everyone else on the internet, and I could probably ignore them if it weren’t for the god awful voice acting. Some of it has been so bad that I nearly burst out laughing. Specifically, the first lines out of the female Turian’s mouth on the Nexus are horrendous. Shortly after speaking to her I had to turn the game off and boot up Mass Effect 3 instead, I couldn’t take it anymore. She’s not alone, however, as most of the characters sound like they were voiced by the developers themselves, blandly reading lines into a microphone with no enthusiasm or emotion.

Lastly, there are some really bad pop in issues, most noticeable while on the Nexus. As I found myself running into rooms, entire groups of NPC’s would pop in two or three seconds after I entered a room. Maybe this is a bug that gets fixed with a patch, maybe it’s a limitation of the Xbox One, but regardless, it really screws with any sense of immersion you might have.

Ultimately, I’m not even sure it’s worth my time to play another couple hours of the free trial. I feel like I’ve seen all I need to see. I don’t think I could take another minute of easily the second worst game I’ve played in 2017 (second only to Ghost Recon Wildlands, another game that suffers from some of the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard in a video game).

I don’t mean to hate on Mass Effect, I really wanted to love the game as much as I’ve loved the rest of the series, but I don’t think it’s possible at this point. At least I can take some relief in knowing that Andromeda was developed by an entirely different team than the original trilogy, and I think in the long run many will come to look at Andromeda as a sort of B-level spin off, rather than a continuation of such a great series.

What other Zelda games should I play?

Breath of the Wild has ignited an interest in Zelda games that no other game has been able to do. As I’ve said before, my first experience with Zelda came from renting Ocarina of Time as a pre-teen and being completely confused about what I was supposed to be doing. Even then, part of me was mesmerized by the art and music, and I enjoyed running around the world so much that I rented it twice and just poked around in other people’s saves, not really getting anywhere in the game.

I tried to go back to Ocarina of Time once or twice in recent years, and but I ultimately got put off by the clunky feeling controls and my inability to competently fight off most enemies. I also didn’t have the patience to try to figure out what exactly I was supposed to be doing as the game didn’t make it very clear (yet unlike Breath of the Wild there are many roadblocks preventing you from doing anything you want at any time).

Now, however, I’m interested in checking out a few of the other Zelda games. I don’t really want to try out Majora’s Mask as it seems too much like Ocarina, which, unlike a majority of gamers, I’m just not into. Instead, I’m somewhat curious about Windwaker and Twilight Princess. I figure these games could allow me to get some more use out of my Wii U after I finish Breath of the Wild, and I’ll be able to see how the series has matured into its more modern state.

Windwaker HD sure looks pretty

Which game do you think I should start with after Breath of the Wild? Which is the most accessible? I understand the recent games are often looked down upon, but part of me wonders if the negative perception is more from fans of the series and could easily be looked past from an outsider like me.

Should I dive into Zelda’s past, or will playing anything after Breath of the Wild only disappoint?

Two weeks with the PS4 Pro: Love it!

I’ve had the PS4 Pro for just over two weeks so far and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the system. First off, the Pro is my first experience with the PS4 platform, and the first time I’ve owned a PlayStation since the PS2. I’ve always been more of an Xbox gamer, however with the lineup of recent Playstation games I felt the time was right to see what Sony had to offer.

One of the immediate benefits of jumping into the PS4 ecosystem is access to a whole new world of video games. One of the first games I played on the system was Tales of Berseria, the first game in the series I have ever played, and the only other JRPG I’ve ever played outside of Final Fantasy. I was immediately hooked by the interesting characters and the incredibly satisfying combat system. The game also has a great visual style and some incredible music. Every time I launch it I just let it sit on the menu screen for awhile, enjoying the beautiful theme.

Horizon Zero Dawn has really justified my decision to purchase the Pro over the Slim. The game is visually stunning on a 4K TV with HDR, and it seems to perform better than most console games I’ve played in the past. The game isn’t all visuals though, it’s a blast to play as well. The different bows are incredibly satisfying to shoot and landing a well time shot to either down a foe or knock of a critical component never gets old. Aloy is one of my favorite video game characters to date, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the game has in store for her.

I’ve also been enjoying Until Dawn, Yakuza 0 and The Last of Us Remastered on the system, however they’ve taken a back seat to Horizon and Zelda.

As someone who never really liked the feel of the PS3 controller, the Pro’s controller feels solid and I haven’t had any issue at all getting used to it. I’ve also been impressed with how snappy the system is compared to the clunkier Xbox One interface (though it’s gotten better recently). Flipping through menu items is quick and smooth, and it’s easy to switch between games and apps without much of a delay.

VR complications

The Pro is also a tempting platform to get VR for. I’ve been thinking about jumping into VR for awhile, and having a Pro has made that decision more complicated. I have a capable gaming desktop, however it is in a small room that wouldn’t be entirely practical for an Oculus set up. I could move the desktop to the living room any time I wanted to mess around with VR, but that would be a nuisance I’m sure. A PS VR would be easy to set up in the living room, but it’s a more limited platform. I was leaning pretty heavily toward a PS VR, at least until Oculus cut its price by $200. So I could spend $499 to get a complete PS VR set up, or just $100 more to get an Oculus. This is a complicated decision that I don’t think I’ll solve any time soon. Maybe I’m better off waiting for a more refined set of VR devices, but I’m also a very impatient man.

Too many platforms

Ultimately I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve spent with the PS4 Pro. The only downside is that it has complicated my decision making process when it comes to third party games. For example, I was previously almost certain I would get Mass Effect Andromeda on the Xbox One, since that’s where I played the previous games, but I had started debating about getting it on PC to put my 1060 to work. Now that I’ve seen just how great Horizon Zero Dawn looks in 4K, I’ve started considering getting Andromeda on the PS4 to take advantage of HDR and a higher resolution. I’ll probably be going back and forth right up to release night, before deciding which platform to get the game for.

Final thought

 The PS4 Pro is one heck of a system. Maybe it seems more impressive to me since it’s also my first experience with a PS4 in general, but I’d like to think that the Pro upgrades give it even more of an edge. The system is incredibly quiet, even while cranking out beautiful visuals in Horizon Zero Dawn, and again I’m in awe at how snappy everything feels. The load times even seem quicker than what I’m used to, but I haven’t played a game like Battlefield 1 or GTA V (which have annoyingly long loads on Xbox One) for reference (Battlefield 1 doesn’t seem to load much quicker on PC, but I’m not sure if that’s more of a server thing).

Austin Walker is like the NPR of video games

Check out Austin Walker’s non-review of Breath of the Wild on Waypoint, especially the audio version (available at the top of the article).

Austin’s write up is beautifully written, but it’s especially mesmerizing in its audio form. The way it’s read by Austin made me feel like I was listening to something on NPR. His voice is soothing, yet you can hear his enthusiasm about the game in every single sentence. If you weren’t sold on the game before, listening to his story might just do it for you. Even if you’re not interested in Zelda at all, I still recommend listening to the story, as it’s an incredible piece of video game journalism.

 

Breath of the Wild: Every time I pick up the controller I have a new story to tell

Tonight I finally got around to playing some more Breath of the Wild, and I was able to learn some valuable lessons. I started out by heading out toward a spot I marked on my map, up on top of a mountain. I figured I’d try to take a somewhat direct route, and I started climbing some pretty sharp and jagged cliffs. I made sure to scope out an area which had a few resting points so that I could recover stamina on the way up. What I didn’t account for, however, was the drop in temperature that would occur as I got close to the summit. As I neared the top I started to see snow, and was greeted with a notification warning me that if I didn’t find warmth I’d start to lose health. The game wasn’t messing around, because less than 30 seconds later I started losing health in half heart chunks!

I immediately tried to make my way back down the mountain, however I couldn’t seem to climb fast enough. I wasn’t thinking clearly, and rather than trying to eat a few apples to slow my impending death, I decided to continue climbing down as quickly as possible. By the time I reached the second point in which I could rest, Link keeled over and his dead body rag-dolled down the mountain before I was met with a ‘game over’ screen.

Usually dying in frustrating ways in video games angers me and causes me to want to stop playing the game, but fortunately Breath of the Wild has a generous auto save system and rather quick load times ensure you’re right back in the action, near where you left off. This meant that I respawned on one of the resting points, and I was able to climb to safety below. Once I reached level ground I decided I’d better find another way to reach the shrine high above, and I started wandering around the area. It was then that I ran into the old man, chopping down some trees near an impassable gap. He mentioned something about being mindful of how you chop down a tree, and this led me to believe that I could somehow chop down a tree to use as a bridge to cross the chasm, thus putting me more directly beneath the shrine I was trying to get to (and possibly further away from the snowy parts toward the east that I ran into earlier). Unfortunately, after chopping down three trees I was unable to get them to bridge the gap (I assume it’s possible, but I just had bad luck), however not all was lost because I followed the old man back to his campfire where I learned how to cook.

It turned out that learning to cook would prove incredibly important, especially if I wished to survive the cold of the mountain peak above. I whipped up some dishes that will give Link temporary cold resistance by throwing some chili peppers into a pot alongside other random ingredients. I also ended up with several dishes that will heal more hearts than I currently have, which is pretty cool.

Yet I also ended up with a huge stockpile of barely edible dishes that “shouldn’t” hurt me.

This series of events tonight really helped to show just how amazing Breath of the Wild can be. Everything that happened to me was entirely unscripted. There was no forced tutorial teaching me how to cook, but rather a chance encounter after a reckless attempt to scale a mountain went south. When I learned that I could combine chili peppers with other ingredients to grant cold resistance, I had an “AHA!” moment that I’ve rarely experienced in modern video games. Suddenly the cold weather above would no longer prove to be a deterrent.

Despite gaining the tools I needed to have another crack at scaling the mountain, I instead decided to head in the opposite direction and tackle one of the other shrines I marked on my map. I ended up running into the bomb shrine (Ja Baij). This shrine was pretty quick, easy and painless, though I managed to die a few times on the outside before heading into the trial. After I completed the trial, I warped back to the Shrine of Resurrection and once again set my sights on the snowy path standing between me and the shrine I originally set out to find.

That’s where my adventure ends tonight. I decided I will venture into the brutal cold another time, but I’m still in awe at just how much can happen in Breath of the Wild. I feel like nothing will ever go exactly as planned, and each time I pick up the controller I’ll be left with a different story to tell. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead, and I hope to continue sharing my stories with you.