The new PlayStation Plus has been frustrating so far

As someone who doesn’t currently own a PlayStation console I was excited to try out the new PlayStation Plus service, specifically the Premium tier that allows streaming on PC. I had tried out PlayStation Now before and it worked reasonably well so I figured Plus Premium would be similar.

I was able to play games such as Horizon Zero Dawn without issue, and the streaming quality was pretty good. I’m playing via a 2018 MacBook Air through Boot Camp connected to a Samsung 4K tv. The stream quality was nice, you can barely tell you’re streaming a game (I’ve had similar experiences streaming via Game Pass). There are minor hiccups where the video gets pixelated, but otherwise it looks crisp and the controls are responsive. I have gigabit internet, and average around 700mbps down via ethernet. I’ve also played via WiFi (about 450 down) and haven’t noticed any dip in quality.

The problem I’ve had is that many PS3 games simply won’t launch. When you click ‘Start’ nothing happens. I’ve restarted my computer, reinstalled the app, no luck. Two games I really wanted to play were Everybody’s Golf and Tekken 2, and neither will launch. PS4 games seem to have no issue, but the majority of PS3 games I’ve tried fail to launch.

Last weekend I spent about an hour chatting with PlayStation support and they had me do everything in the book. Reinstall the app, reset my modem and router, restart my computer, try a different internet connection (I tried ethernet, WiFi, and via mobile hotspot). Eventually they finally decided to tell me “oh we know about this, sorry, it should get fixed eventually”. Not encouraging. I asked if they could extend my subscription for the time I haven’t been able to get what I’ve paid for, but their response was that since I could still use PlayStation Plus I was out of luck. Not ideal.

I’ve tried every day for the last week and I still can’t launch most PS3 games. While I’m enjoying Horizon, it’s disappointing that I can’t access the majority of the back catalog being offered. I’ve seen a handful of people on Reddit express that they’re having the same issue, with little help from PlayStation support. I really hope this gets fixed soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

I wish I liked Mario Strikers: Battle League

Mario Strikers: Battle League is an incredibly stylish game. Everything from the menus to the special shot animations are oozing with style. Having not played any previous Mario soccer game I imagined I’d be in for a hectic Mario Kart style take on soccer, so I bought the game without giving it much though. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a whole lot of fun with the game since its launch, and I’m not so sure I’ll spend a lot more time with it.

I was disappointed to find that there’s not a whole lot of single player content. You can play quick matches or enter into cup battles, but there’s no story mode, and no progression (besides unlocking a few pieces of equipment that change a character’s stats).

The gameplay itself feels solid. You’ll pass and shoot around the pitch, while avoiding enemy tackles and power ups while strategically deploying your own. You’re rewarded for well timed passes and shots allowing you to score a combos which increase your chance of scoring. If you collect a glowing orb that occasionally appears you’ll have an opportunity to execute a powerful shot that if timed correctly becomes unblockable and counts for two points.

The hyper strike shots are easy enough to pull off against the AI, but I’ve found them almost impossible to pull off online. They can be interrupted by a tackle, so you really need to be wide open to pull one off. This makes sense, otherwise it could make the game too easy if you could consistently get these shots off, and it makes it extra rewarding when you do pull one off (beyond the extra point).

That said, in general my online experience has been miserable. When playing solo I’ve been matched against teams of players who have a huge advantage over my AI controlled teammates. They’ll often constantly tackle everyone repeatedly (you can tackle players whether or not they have the ball) and there have been some matches where I feel like I’ve barely crossed mid field. In general when I’ve played online I either lose in an 8-0 embarrassment or I get the feeling I’m playing against a child who can’t quite grasp the controls and I win without breaking a sweat. There hasn’t been any middle ground, and I haven’t wanted to play online at all anymore.

Without an enjoyable online experience, I’m left with the hollow single player experience which definitely isn’t worth the $60 asking price. Maybe I’m just terrible at the game (seems likely), but I pictured myself having more fun with the game.

I might give the game another shot with some local multiplayer, but otherwise I don’t think I’ll be launching the game again.

Don’t bother with Truck Driver on consoles

As someone who loves the Truck Simulator games by SCS (mostly American Truck Simulator) I’ve been curious about Truck Driver on consoles. The game was released last Fall on the Xbox One and PS4 (Switch and Steam releases are coming this year) developed and published by SOEDESCO. I rented it via GameFly just to see what it would be like, and I’m glad I didn’t get suckered into buying it (it goes for $39.99 on Xbox).

Right off the bat the game looks and feels like a budget game. The interface isn’t great, and the menus give the impression that it’s a mobile game. The intro to the game was even worse. You’re greeted with a slow moving text conversation that’s meant to be a tutorial. This all would have been easy to look past if the driving turned out to be good. Spoiler alert, it’s terrible. There’s no weight to the driving at all. It feels very slippery and loose, almost like you’re controlling a camera floating above the road rather than a truck. In American Truck Simulator you can feel the weight of the trucks, and it takes time to get up to speed while hauling a trailer. In Truck Driver hauling a trailer feels no different than driving without one.

One of the things I like about the SCS games is observing the scenery while driving. While the games aren’t one to one representations of the real world, they feel close enough, especially as someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

The driving felt so bad right off the bat that I couldn’t bear to drive like I would in real life. I quickly found out there are no penalties for speeding (though I’m not even sure I saw a speed limit sign), driving on the wrong side of the road, or even barreling into other cars (though your truck can sustain damage).

I only managed to play for about twenty minutes before I couldn’t bear it any longer. It’s possible that my impressions of this game are tainted with the countless hours I’ve spent in the SCS games, but I can’t imagine that this game would feel great even as someone’s first truck simulator game. Heck, I’d bet if you’ve played any driving game in the last ten years you’d instantly be put off by how bad the driving feels in this game.

I’ve included a video of my first twenty minutes with Truck Simulator if you want to get an idea of what the experience is like. You’ll notice I drive poorly, but to be honest the game felt so bad I didn’t care to even try to play it as a simulation.

I had to cut the audio out of this, I was listening to a radio station while I streamed and YouTube hit me with about 15 content ID claims and blocked my video. I added a royalty free song from YouTube, but it only covers the first thirty minutes or so. Also the quality isn’t great, it’s very compressed from streaming to Facebook. I’ll try to get a better quality video up shortly.

For reference I’ve included video of me playing American Truck Simulator, a much more enjoyable game. If you only have consoles, then you really don’t have any other choices for a truck driving game, but for $40 I wouldn’t recommend this game even if you were desperate. I probably wouldn’t touch it even if it were under $10, it’s just a bad game. Do yourself a favor and stay far away from it!

Check out The Washington Post’s in-depth look at Animal Crossing’s economy

The Washington Post recently published an in depth look at Animal Crossing New Horizon’s economy that I wanted to share.

Love the presentation of the article in the Washington Post app

It’s crazy to read about the “get rich quick” schemes and intense trading players are doing to bring in massive amounts of bells. Here I am, forgetting every week to even buy turnips (I don’t want to time travel), and struggling to pay for my second house upgrade. I’ve fallen off from playing regularly pretty quickly, unfortunately. It’s relaxing to jump in every now and then, but I’ve never been any sort of power player. It’s been about a week and a half since I’ve last checked in, and despite setting a reminder to buy turnips this past Sunday I still missed my chance. It’s probably for the best, because even had I bought them I’d forget to sell them before they rot.

Anyway check out the linked article, it’s a good read, even if you’re not a power player. It’s a window into another world.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics Review

When I first heard about Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics for the Nintendo Switch, a forgotten memory flashed into my mind. I recalled browsing the cheap PC games at Wal-Mart or Circuit City and coming home with a disc that featured ‘hundreds’ of games on it. You’d pop in the disc and browse through a directory of games, fooling around with most of them for mere seconds, before finding maybe two or three on the disc that were actually entertaining. In fact, most of them would be shareware, demos of full games that you were encouraged to pay more for.

Without knowing too much about Clubhouse Games upfront, I kind of assumed that there might be only a handful of games worth playing. After spending some time with the game, however, I found that assumption to be wrong. Sure, there are a lot of games that aren’t my cup of tea. I don’t like the ‘toy’ games, such as curling, baseball, and boxing, but the board games make up for the minigames that feel shoveled in.

Clubhouse Games does a really good job of introducing you to the rules and strategies of games you might not be familiar with. I had always thought that backgammon seemed unapproachable, but my wife and I played a game and caught on really quickly. We’ve developed a bit of a rivalry through some of the games, and it’s incredibly easy to switch from game to game for an evening of light fun.

That said, it’s incredibly clear from the promotional material which games support local multiplayer. Luckily the breakdown in EGM’s review makes it easy to see which games support same screen multiplayer.

Here’s a list of the games included in the collection

The menus and overall presentation of the collection are clean and straightforward, which is appreciated. There’s not much going on outside of the games, but there’s just enough to give the collection personality. There are some cheesy intros to the games which offer some background for the games which can get annoying, however they’re easy enough to skip that it never became bothersome.

For $40 Clubhouse Games offers a variety of family fun that’s easy to jump right into. I think it’s a great game to have in the bag for entertaining yourself during a flight (once that becomes a thing again), but it also makes for some great light entertainment while camping. For that reason I’d say that Clubhouse Games is a great addition to just about any Switch library, however it is likely best suited for those looking for easy to pick up family entertainment. I certainly wish I would have had a game like this for long family road trips in the minivan as a kid. Instead, I had:

Finally finished The Last of Us

I started playing The Last of Us back on the PS3 but it never really hooked me. The Last of Us Remastered was one of the first purchases I made when I first picked up a PS4 Pro, however I again played for an hour or so and fell off. With all of the hype (and controversy) surrounding the release of The Last of Us 2, I decided to dive back in, and I’m glad I did!

Even when I played it on the PS3 I thought the game looked great, but on a PS4 Pro it’s one of the better looking games I’ve played. The environments are incredible, and littered with small things that can spark conversation between the characters. I would wander into a room to find Ellie playing darts which made her character feel more like a real person, and not just a tag a long character. These moments and the detailed environments also improve the pacing of the game. There are many intense moments that will increase your heart rate, so it’s nice to have moments to calm down despite the darkness of the world. The bright lighting and signs of normalcy interspersed throughout the world really distinguish The Last of Us from other post apocalyptic game worlds. Ellie asking Joel about life before the outbreak humanize the experience, it’s not all violence and darkness (though there’s plenty of each for sure).

The variety of environments and encounters make the world of The Last of Us feel more real. It’s not filled with the same textures, which makes the game feel like an actual world rather than an assortment of levels that make for good combat zones. That said, the areas in which combat take place allow for a variety of ways to make it through them. You can try to sneak by without engaging anyone, you can sneak around and shiv people silently, or you can go in guns blazing. Each approach feels great, though at times ammo can be scarce. I played on easy, so the guns blazing approach worked well for me, but there were still times I found myself needing to scrounge around for ammo, and toward the end of the game I found myself worried I might run out. Luckily, I never did which kept the game from getting frustrating.

The story of The Last of Us kept me engaged throughout. I always wanted to see what would happen next, though sometimes I had to force myself to step away to gather my thoughts. There’s a lot to take in, and it can weigh on you emotionally, which is something not a lot of games can do successfully. I feel like the weight of the story is similar to the Life is Strange series, as those are probably the only other games that made me want to step away from the game to unpack my emotions.

In the end, I think I’m going to take a bit of a breather before working through the Left Behind DLC, and ultimately firing up The Last of Us 2. If you haven’t had a chance to play The Last of Us, I highly recommend it, even if you play on easy it’s worth having the experience.

My experience with Steam Link and PS4 Remote Play on iOS

When the Steam Link device was released I was pretty excited about what it promised. It allowed you to stream your Steam library from your PC to any TV in the house, which sounded great for someone who wasn’t a huge fan of always sitting in a computer chair at a desk. Once I got the hardware, however, I was disappointed from the start. I never had a great experience with it, even though I had a quality router. It’s highly recommended that both the PC and Steam Link are connected to the router via ethernet, but that wasn’t going to work for me.

While listening to a podcast a few days ago I was made aware that there’s now a Steam Link app for iOS. This discovery happened to coincide with the release of Persona 4 Golden on Steam, and I was thrilled to give it a try. Persona is a game that doesn’t suffer if a little bit of input lag or drops in video quality are introduced. I quickly got the app up and running, and plopped my iPad on a table in front of our porch swing to give it a go. It worked surprisingly well, even with my desktop only being connected via WiFi. I didn’t get any pixelation or hiccups during the hour I played on the iPad. From there I got Steam Link set up on my Apple TV in the living room and continued on for another hour or so, without any issues.

I then dug out my Steam Link hardware and set it up to see if I’d get the same experience, but unfortunately little had changed from the last time I tried to use it. It was a pixelated mess, hardly playable at all, despite it being set up closer to my router than the Apple TV or my iPad.

The only downside to using an Apple TV for Steam Link is that there’s no mouse support. I have another Apple TV in my office and wanted to play Command and Conquer Remastered on it, only to find out there’s not a way to use a bluetooth mouse through the Apple TV. I ended up connecting the mouse to my desktop and used a bluetooth keyboard connected to the Apple TV and it worked, however I’m not sure it would work well (if at all) from the living room.

I ended up spending some time running an ethernet cable into my office and setting up an ethernet switch to finally wire everything up, which did make the Steam Link usable. From there I decided to give PS4 Remote Play another try on my iPad and MacBook, and while it works, it’s a much lower quality experience compared to the Steam Link app.

I played some of The Last of Us Remastered on my MacBook in the living room as my wife was watching Netflix, and while it worked, it certainly wasn’t an ideal experience. During scenes with lots of action I experienced heavy pixelation and some lag, and I often had to pause to let the quality improve so that I wouldn’t die. I didn’t adjust the display settings on my PS4 Pro (I had it set to prioritize higher resolutions) so that may have played a part in my experience, but the best way to play The Last of Us is on a TV anyway, as the scenery is part of what makes the game special.

These remote play experiences has made me wish that the experience were better for the Xbox. As far as I’m aware there’s not currently a way to stream an Xbox to an iOS device or MacBook (outside of the Xcloud beta or running Bootcamp), and even trying Xbox’s remote play on my desktop has been a poor experience. I have yet to try since running ethernet to everything, but my desktop is in the same room as my Xbox, so there’s little reason to try. I did try streaming to the Xbox app via BootCamp on my Mac and it was unplayable.

Fooling around in GTA Online

I hopped on GTA Online last night just to fool around in the world. It was nice to just goof off without worrying about running businesses or missions trying to make money. I probably flew around in a helicopter for a good hour, just following people around taking in the chaos before just about everyone on the server got bumped out of the blue. In the first video I was just waiting by an AFK player (one of only two others on the server at that point) when I saw a dot approaching on the map and tried to figure out where it was coming from. They made quite the entrance.

In the second video I was following around a blimp as a player in an Opressor made attempts to land on it. I think the blimp pilot didn’t appreciate all of the attention as they tried to slip away.

How to fix Civilization VI graphics glitch on Xbox One

I was excited when Civilization VI released on console as it’s the perfect game to casually play from a comfortable chair. Playing with a mouse and keyboard is probably still the ideal way to go, but the controls are intuitive and easy to master on console. However, after completing my first game I seemed to run into an inescapable graphics bug that was ruining the fun. When another scout appeared on screen the character models would fail to load in and black, flashing polygons would cover the majority of the screen. No fun.

This may have been fixed by a patch, I haven’t checked recently, but if you’re affected by this glitch there’s a simple fix. You need to go into the DLC menu and disable the ‘scout cat’ DLC. Once you do so you shouldn’t run into this issue again.

Hope this helped!

Lesson learned: Don’t sleep try to sleep away a blood moon at an enemy camp (BOTW)

https://twitter.com/i/status/1089042119849734145

I’ve finally been getting into Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I’m always learning new things (I just learned you can take video clips on the Switch!). While trying to make my way to Zora to tackle my second Divine Beast (I did the one by Gerudo first) I was met with a blood moon. So far in the game I’ve always just gone to sleep to wait out blood moons, usually when I’m near stables. I happened to clear out a pack of enemies just before the moon rose at this camp, and figured I’d just wait it out there. I should have known better. I awoke surrounded by enemies and was thrust immediately into battle. Luckily they weren’t difficult to dispatch, especially with the help of Wolf Link.