TIL: You can rent UHD Blu-rays from GameFly

Did you know you can rent UHD Blu-rays from GameFly now? I didn’t. I recently re-upped my GameFly subscription after a hiatus and was surprised to see the 4K Blu-ray discs available.

UHD Blu-rays are still rather expensive, usually $25-30 each, so it’s nice to have the option to rent one on occasion. The last one I purchased was 1917, which was great, but I’m not huge on rewatching movies, and if I do it’ll probably be via the digital code that came with the disc. I’d much rather rent a Blu-ray to watch a movie in its highest quality rather than buy one. I’ve rented 4K movies through a variety of streaming services and on a variety of services, but the experience has never compared to the crisp, clean picture and high quality sound that the discs offer.

I’m on the $22.95 2-disc plan right now, getting ready to start The Last of Us Part II thanks to GameFly. I usually use one of my two slots to play a game I really want to play, and the other to take a chance on something I definitely wouldn’t buy otherwise (that’s Truck Driver for the Xbox One at the moment). So it might be worth it for me to occasionally use my “I might not like this” rental slot to watch a movie now and then.

GameFly has one disc plans for $15.95 a month, and they eventually allow you to upgrade beyond two disc plans once you’ve been a member for at least two consecutive months. In comparison, Netflix’s DVD.com plans only offer non-4K Blu-rays for $9.99 and $14.99 a month for one and two disc plans respectively. GameFly is of course focused on video games, explaining the higher pricing, but the movie rentals are a nice bonus.

In the process of writing this post I also discovered that RedBox offers some UHD Blu-ray rentals for $2.50 per night, but the availability seems scarce, at least at locations near me.

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.

Photos from camping last weekend

We ventured out to the same area to camp last weekend, however it was much busier so we had to drive a few miles past our preferred camping spots. We were starting to get anxious that we wouldn’t be able to find any at all when we stumbled across this location. It wasn’t perfect, it was pretty close to the road, but I think it worked out okay. There was a nice spot where we set up chairs on the river bank which was incredibly relaxing.

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.

The best Xbox Game Pass Games

If you’re getting or giving an Xbox for the first time this holiday season, it’s worth considering signing up for / gifting a Game Pass subscription alongside it. If you’re unfamiliar with Game Pass, it’s a subscription service where for $9.99 a month you get instant access to a library of 100+ Xbox games. You’ll be able to download as many games from the service as you like, and play them as often as you like (while subscribed to the service). One huge plus, is that all first party Microsoft games will release on Game Pass going forward (meaning that on launch day you can download and play the game without paying more as long as you’re subscribed to the service). Recently, AAA games such as Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves have launched on Game Pass.

With that said, here are some of my personal favorite games currently available on Game Pass:

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 is an incredibly beautiful game, especially on the Xbox One X. It’s an open world racing game that is a little more arcade feeling than the traditional Forza series, but the driving feels more “real” or grounded than games like Burnout Paradise or The Crew 2. The changing of seasons is a pretty neat idea, and the roads feel different depending on which season you’re currently in. The racing feels great as is always does in the Forza series, and the relatively seamless multiplayer experience is a plus as well.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Whether you grew up playing the Halo games, or you’ve never touched one before, The Master Chief Collection is an incredible package. It had a rocky launch, but my experiences with it lately have been overwhelmingly positive, and it looks great since becoming X Enhanced as well. You’ll be able to play through the campaigns of Halo 1-4 solo or with friends, and of course you’ll have access to all of the multiplayer action as well. Halo 5 is also available in Game Pass, but I greatly prefer the MCC multiplayer.

HITMAN

HITMAN is an absolute masterpiece of a game. If you’re unfamiliar, you’ll be thrown into a variety of environments with the goal of assassinating several targets in each. There’s such a wide variety of ways to accomplish the missions, however you’ll be able to find some ‘guided’ story elements to pull off particularly entertaining assassinations. There’s so much opportunity for hilarity, chaos and pulse pounding action in the game. For some idea of what the game can bring, check out some of the Giant Bomb features on it.

These are just a few of my favorites featured in Game Pass, but there are so many more. Other hits include:

DOOM
Gears of War 4
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
PUBG
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rocket League
State of Decay 2
Sunset Overdrive

Should you get an Xbox One X if you already have an Xbox One / S?

Going into the holiday shopping season a lot of people may be asking whether they should purchase an Xbox One X. As someone who has had an Xbox One since launch, and upgraded to an S once we got our first 4K TV, I thought I’d share my thoughts on upgrading to the Xbox One X.

UI

If you’re expecting the Xbox One X to make the atrocious Xbox UI to run faster or smoother, you’ll be disappointed. The UI on the One X is just as painfully slow as it is on the other versions of the console. When I first launch it and go to ‘my games and apps’ it can take 10 seconds or longer for my games to load in. What’s worse is when I scroll down to updates it can take up to 30 seconds for those to load in (I used to have it set to automatically update, however I had to stop once I was routinely blowing through my 1.2TB data cap downloading updates for games I would probably never play). I currently have 20 games awaiting updates, but even when I’ve had lower numbers the load time seemed just as long.

On the plus side recording gameplay clips on the One X doesn’t seem to cause my games to lag (which I experienced a lot on the S, most notably with Madden where it would record a clip after every touchdown, which on more than one occasion caused a lag spike that made me miss the PAT).

Load times

One of the things I like most about the One X is that it has noticeably decreased load times in games. When my brother was out visiting we set my One S up alongside the X and were playing Destiny 2 (both using s 200mbps internet connection with an open NAT). Every time we would go to a planet or load into a mission or strike I would load in somewhere around 15 seconds before he would. That may not seem like a long time, but stop reading for a second and count to 15. It adds up in the long run for sure. I’ve also noticed I load into games of Madden much, much quicker than I did on the S, which has significantly cut down on the time I’ve spent browsing Reddit on my phone between games.

Graphics 

One of the biggest selling points of the Xbox One X is that it’s the ‘most powerful console’ on the market, and it shows. Games like Forza Horizon 4, Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption 2 look stunning in 4K with HDR (well Red Dead’s HDR is less impressive, but that’s not the Xbox’s fault). Everything looks so crisp, and I’ve been blown away many times by games. I know I’m not doing it justice by describing with text, but it’s truly something you’ll have to see for yourself. What I can say is that I also own a PS4 Pro, and while it looks really good as well (Uncharted: Lost Legacy amazed me), I’ve played games on both, and the One X is certainly the superior experience.

UHD Blu Ray capability

Another added benefit of the Xbox One X (and the One S as well) is that it will play UHD Blu Rays. These look great, and are a wonderful way to show of a 4K TV. I’ve rented and bought UHD videos through the Microsoft Store, and UHD Blu Rays still look superior. If you’re into movies, having a UHD Blu Ray player is a plus, and something that the PS4 Pro lacks.

What if I have an Xbox One, but not a PS4?

If you already have an Xbox One and are happy with it, it may be worth looking at picking up a PS4, depending on what type of games the purchaser (or gift receiver) likes. If you’re the type of person who mostly plays third party games by EA, Ubisoft, etc. that are available on both systems, then the One X will likely improve your experience of those games. However, if gaining access to an entirely new library of games sounds appealing, your money may better be invested in a PS4, especially if you can get a hold of a good holiday bundle. You’ll then be able to get into a great selection of games, including Horizon Zero Dawn, Yakuza.0, Spider-Man and God of War. I can’t speak to the difference between the PS4 Pro and the standard model, as my only PS4 has been the Pro. That said, games look and run well on the Pro, though it chugs at times, even with first party games when set to the higher graphics settings.

Is the Xbox One X a good investment?

In my opinion it is, but I’ve had mine since its launch. Something I would consider over the next year is that the next generation of consoles have been strongly hinted at releasing as early as 2020. Also, if you don’t have a 4K TV, you’ll still get the benefit of faster load times, smoother gameplay, and slightly enhanced graphics, but the cost is still a little high for what you’ll get.