Sep 21 2016

Overwatch: A much-delayed short review

Adel Gabot

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6:06AM

It’s been over a week since I bought a store copy of the full Overwatch game for my PS4, and so far I’m having a blast. What took me so long?

In that week, I tried to get my rank up to 25, the level which opens up competitive multiplay, but I’ve only gotten it up to Level 23. Man, it’s tough playing against people who have a four-month head start; I’m envious of those who are in the 80s or 90s. But I’m getting there.

It’s been over a week since Blizzard opened up the game to players for free for an entire weekend to players not yet won over to the shoot-’em-up. It worked, at least on me.

I had been resisting it since it was released late last May, (correctly) assuming it was just another in a long, tired tradition of First Person Shooters like the Call of Duty or the Battlefield series. But somehow they’ve injected new life into the FPS genre, and there’s something about it I can’t resist.

Blizzard has had a stellar record of releasing wonderful MMORPGs, and with Overwatch it branched out into FPSes for the first time and apparently (although I didn’t think so at the time) it’s come up with another hit again.

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There’s something about the clean, bright graphics, the stellar, arresting gameplay, varied, interesting maps and the smooth animation. More importantly, Blizzard has managed to create a roster of 22 unique characters with different and distinct personalites and abilities that makes playing each one a pleasure and gives longevity to the game. There are six each in offense and defense modes, and five each in tank and support roles.

I quickly settled on a favorite, the robot Bastion, who can convert from a rampaging blaster-equipped fighter to an immovable, formidable turret with a gatling gun. I made it a practice to scope out the maps and find distinct, unassailable positions where I can settle down with my back to a wall and open up on my enemies from a distance.

After a few days though, I tried out the other characters and found each of them very capable and useful each in their own way. Some of them, like Mercy, are strictly for support and have limited assault capabilities, but can heal and make teammates temporarily invincible. (Another one of them, ice queen Mei, looks uncannily like a friend of mine named Stef, which makes her interesting to play.)

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One niggle though is the long wait times to get on a game: some days it takes less than a minute for the program to find an online game for you to play on, but on other days it can take up to 30 minutes to almost an hour before they locate a game for you. And there are instances when you’re “reinstanced” (which I don’t really understand) and thrown out in the middle or towards the end of a game and are put back on the game queue. Eh?

And I’ve noticed a pattern in playing too. If you play a game, the next one starts the pre-game process and says its “waiting for other players,” but (almost always) bumps you back out to the game queue to wait again. It’s damned irritating, but what can you do?

This isn’t really a comprehensive look at the game, and there’s more to the game than this kinda-sorta review indicates, but I’m just giving you my initial impressions. And those impressions are largely favorable, at least for now.

We’ll see.


Sep 13 2016

…I bought it. Damn.

Adel Gabot

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10:59AM

Huh.

I bought the damn thing. Overwatch.

Couldn’t help it. It’s just too good.

Their free weekend trick worked. After four months of hemming and hawing, they finally got me to buy it.

Again, damn those game developers and their damn dirty tactics!


Sep 10 2016

Overwatch

Adel Gabot

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12:42PM

Overwatch is one of the titles I thought I’d consciously and deliberately overlook from this year’s crop of games for my console, mainly because I felt it just retreads old FPS grounds from older games.

Despite that it comes from the venerable developer Blizzard, who thus far hasn’t come up with a milquetoast title yet, I felt that it’s too much like, say, Team Fortress 2 from Steam. Come to think of it, it’s almost exactly like Team Fortress 2.

Pass on this one, or so I thought.

This morning, Blizzard set up a free weekend for Overwatch, where you can play the game whole and unfettered by any limitations for the entire weekend. They do this in the hope of getting people like me to actually try it and like it enough to eventually buy the game afterwards.

So I took the time to download it last night (which wasn’t an easy thing, since it weighed in at almost 14GB), then this morning when I woke up, I tried it.

Damn it, they were right.

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Aside from the smooth and slick animation and wonderfully colorful graphics, it plays like a dream and has a fluid quality that enthralls me. I know it’s just an MMO’ed FPS, but man, I love it. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why, but damn, it’s actually addicting.

I think I’m actually going to buy the game next week, after resisting the siren call for months. I have a lot to catch up on.

Damn these game developers and their sneaky tactics!


Aug 23 2016

VR!

Adel Gabot

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1:01PM

Having nothing much to do this morning (despite it being a bit rainy), I went to see if I could still catch the Playstation Virtual Reality demo they’re supposedly having at the Sony Showroom at SM Megamall. I only found out about it from a PS4 thread on the regular Mac users’ forum I moderate, PhilMUG.

I wanted to kick myself for not knowing sooner and getting a chance to try out the VR for myself, but I said, don’t get your panties caught in a bunch just yet, it might still be there.

So I went this morning, and it was.

I was pleasantly surprised. I was half expecting a blocky, pixellated demo with lousy head tracking. Instead what I got was a smooth, flowing, detailed, immersive experience you can actually get lost in. Bravo, Sony. Worth every centavo.

There was a small crowd when I got there, and there was a wildly expressive, demonstrative teenager trying the VR out. You’d think he was on the moon, from his crazy, albeit unconscious antics there on the show floor. I’m sure he felt embarrassed and sheepish the minute he took the headset off.

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I had worked my way to the front of the crowd, and immediately asked if I could try it as soon as the teenager stepped off. The demo guy obliged and asked me to sit down. I took off my baseball cap and was about to remove my glasses when he told me I could keep those on if I wanted. (It was great of Sony to make allowances for us glasses people.) Aside from the visual headset, he made me put on a big pair of cans to complete the picture.

I saw a five-minute shark VR demo, and boy it was fantastic! I was supposedly in a shark tank being lowered into the water, and I saw the various flora and fauna of the deep on my way down. I looked to my right and left, and up and down and around to the back—it was seamless and fluid. The headset tracked my every move. I saw fish, coral, turtles, jellyfish, everything. I really felt like I was there.

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It was like that until I reached the dark deep where the sharks were. Then it became scary. A great white shark loomed out of the depths and proceeded to stalk me, then attack. It bit at the cage and proceeded to tear it apart until I was out there and exposed. The great white prepared to lunge at the now-bare me and then, all of a sudden, it was over, and I had to take the headgear off.

I’m sure I looked as stupid as that teenager.

But I was pretty impressed by the demo. I’m sure in retrospect there were a lot of things lacking, like it wasn’t really that realistically rendered, and the whole tableaux was a bit dark, but I was caught up in the heat of the moment. I was sure the much cheaper and decidedly less advanced PS VR certainly couldn’t match the superior technology of that other major VR gear, the Oculus Rift, but it seemed to me today that PSVR held its own. It was just fine.

And here I was, thinking Sony was releasing the newer 4K PS4 as a way to patch the technological hole left by VR, that the older units couldn’t really handle it reliably and they needed the extra oomph to really make it shine. Yet here it was, running off a first-generation PS4, and it was doing great.

I was sold.

The problem was, Sony was only releasing 100 units in the country this year, and they’ve been sold out for weeks already. Even at the slightly higher price. I could buy it abroad, but it’s also sold out there. I can always get from the gray market, but at exorbitant prices for sure. I left my card with the demo guy just to be sure, but it’s a very long shot.

Hmm. How to do this?

 

 


Aug 19 2016

Solving that pesky problem

Adel Gabot

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8:09AM

More on this current “video game” streak of mine on the blog:

I finally solved that damn pesky PS4 problem of mine that’s been plaguing me for over a year now: the odd, sudden and (sometimes) frequent ejection of my game discs apropos of nothing, even in the middle of play.

This glitch shockes me out of my immersive gameplay, and more often than not makes me lose my progress from the last save point. The worse thing is, the PS4 now refuses to allow any discs back inside, and I have to turn if off and on again first before it will. It’s friggin’ irritating!

Some days it will never happen, and I can play in peace for a week or so. But there are days when it will do it incessantly, and not let me play at all. It always gives that danged beep when it’s ejecting a disc, and sometimes it will beep continously even while it’s on rest mode. That when I know to stay away from the PS4 for a while.

I couldn’t very well take the PS4 in for service, for two reasons: one, it’s way out of warranty, and two, Sony wouldn’t take it in anyway even if was under warranty—it was a North American unit, not Asian. I had bought it from a guy who gets his supply from the States. Serves me right buying from the gray market.

I tried every solution on the net: removing the rubber foot from underneath the disk eject button (on the off-chance that it triggers the button when it supposedly expands from the operating heat); unplugging and restarting the PS4 cold; turning the PS4 off by continually pressing on the power button until it beeps twice and turns off, then unplugging it for three minutes before restarting it; taking off the hard drive cover and adjusting the disc screw tighter or looser, depending on the problem; or, leaving it unplugged and unconnected to the internet for a whole day.

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Nothing worked.

After a particularly frustrating moment the other day when it kicked me out of the ending portion of a level in Fallout 4, I sat down again to ponder my persistent problem.

It was then I finally realized that this problem started around the time I connected my PS4 to the new transformer all those months ago. I needed extra outlets and hooked up a small transformer I had bought at a hardware store, and as an afterthought connected the PS4 and the DS4 charger to it for convenience, and to spread the load around a bit.

Along the way I also connected a desk fan to the same setup, a fan which I later noticed sped up and slowed down periodically, owing to the electrical fluctuations from the transformer (it wasn’t a terribly expensive device).

I never made the connection. Apparently the PS4 was also being affected by fluctuations all this time, and the disc it was using was being kicked out everytime the voltage hit a high, which was an erratic but reasonably frequent occurrence. So I connected the PS4 back to the main line, and it hasn’t acted up since. It’s been two days, and everything’s just fine and dandy again.

Sheesh. I’ve half a mind to chuck that transformer in the trash.