Week in Review: 3/21/14 – Virtual or Reality?
Welcome to the Week in Review, a feature where Dan Oravasaari and Alex Osborn will break down what happened over the last week and discuss what it means to the industry as a whole, and to you the gamer. This week Dan was at GDC, so Chandler Wood is stepping in to take his place.
Alex: Something strange is going on over at Sony Santa Monica. The studio was hit by a bunch of layoffs not too long ago, and some of the big names behind the God of War franchise have up and left the team. We can now add Stig Asmussen to that list. For those that don’t know Stig was instrumental in all three of the mainline God of War titles, serving as Creative Director on God of War III. Sony has made it clear that there’s some “rebooting” taking place over at Santa Monica Studio, so I guess it makes sense that we’re seeing so many changes over there right now.
Meanwhile, another Sony-owned studio has lost a talented team member. Jaime Griesemer, the lead designer on InFamous: Second Son, has parted ways with Sucker Punch now that development on the PS4 exclusive is complete. This is a huge loss for the team, as Griesemer is one talented dude, having worked over at Bungie for a number of years aiding in the development of a large portion of the Halo franchise.
Chandler: The big names in the industry are becoming attached to titles more than they are to studios. Studios need to breathe, meaning a massive influx of expertise while a game is in development, and a subsequent exhaling of that talent in between titles. With the success of indie titles, we see various developers breaking off and starting their own studios or shopping their ideas around to create the games that they truly want to make without being tethered to a large studio.
I’m not saying that is definitively what is happening in these situations, but as we are seeing more and more talent leaving studios across the industry, I can only surmise that conflicts between ideas and budgets may be playing its part. I see this as a potential good thing though, as some of the most creative titles come when the industry players are shaken up a bit and settle into new studios with new teams.
Chandler: The used game market is clearly alive and well, and Walmart wants a piece. Reportedly they will be extremely aggressive on what they will pay out for used games, as well as competitive in their pricing of pre-owned titles. Walmart has the benefit of not having their entire business rely on game sales, so they can be more aggressive without worrying about it significantly impacting their business. This brings more customers into their stores and ultimately means more business for the rest of what they sell too.
While I can’t say I’m a fan of massive conglomerates like Walmart, they really seem to be giving the best deal to gamers on both the trade-in and purchase of used titles. It remains to be seen how this will impact the industry, if at all, but it could end up dragging up the age old debate of if used video game sales are good for the industry or not, and as someone that purchases and trades in a fair amount of both used and new games, that’s a debate that I don’t want to see reignited.
Alex: You bring up a great point, Chandler. Walmart is much larger than its electronics department, so the company definitely has more wiggle room to undercut GameStop and Best Buy on its used game prices. Providing consumers with a better trade-in value will do wonders as well. If the value truly is significantly better than Walmart’s competitors, there’s a good chance it could really take off, forcing GameStop to adjust its pricing or suffer a dip in its consumer base.
Alex: We knew the announcement was coming, and finally we can talk about it with certainty. Project Morpheus is Sony’s virtual reality headset, which has been designed specifically to work with PlayStation 4. Now I don’t know about you, Chandler, but I have yet to experience the wonders that VR offers, so I can’t really comment on how viable this technology will prove to be. That said, from what I hear, Sony’s headset rivals the Oculus Rift and is incredibly comfortable. It also looks much sleeker than what Oculus is offering, at least right now.
Of course, the big question is going to be price. How much this thing will cost is ultimately going to make or break this device when it hits store shelves. The average consumer isn’t going to be willing to shell out $300+ for something like this, so I really hope Sony will be able to find that sweet spot.
Chandler: We each talked about our feelings on Project Morpheus in Ask PSLS this week. While I haven’t experienced VR in this extreme, I am an adopter of a 3D TV, and I actually enjoy it quite a bit. I feel that it really does enhance the immersion of the experience and Project Morpheus is only expanding on that. With the industry buzz surrounding the Oculus Rift, it means that Sony isn’t putting out a feature that has a lack of interest.
Affordability and support are going to be what makes or breaks Sony’s VR solution though. Consider that this is actually just an accessory for a $400 console. Sony has been known to release incredible yet expensive technology that is ahead of its time and doesn’t see the support or implementation that it deserves. I would love to see Morpheus thrive, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it fall flat on its VR headset wearing face either.
Chandler: Square Enix knows how to do at least one thing right, and that is HD remasters. Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster became a beautiful, nostalgia-inducing trip down memory lane for me as I reviewed it, and Heath shared my sentiment in his Vita review. I don’t know what your feelings are on the matter Alex, but reliving a title more than a decade later, and introducing that classic to new players is how HD remasters should really be done, not re-releasing a title as an HD remaster a year after initial release.. Yup, I’m looking at you Tomb Raider.
There is a certain magic present in revisiting the classics, and like watching classic old movies on Blu-ray, there is a charm in the golden era of gaming. Getting to experience the International versions was an awesome experience that remixed a fresh feel into my nostalgia, and it was really fun to get to show my wife the games that I was really into more than ten years ago without having to dig out an old PS2.
Alex: I couldn’t agree more. There aren’t a whole lot of HD remakes that have piqued my interest, but the prospect of playing Final Fantasy X in high definition definitely has me on board. Square Enix did a stellar job bringing the original Kingdom Hearts into the high-def era, so I’m sure I’ll be impressed with what the company has done with this duo of beloved PS2 JRPGs. Plus, I never got a chance to finish X-2, so this will provide me with the perfect excuse to revisit that crazy dress sphere system.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Alex: Game length aside, I must admit, I was profoundly disappointed by Kojima Productions’ prologue to The Phantom Pain. It just lacks that Metal Gear charm I’ve come to know and love from having played all the prior games in the series. Has too much changed? Perhaps. Is Kojima trying too dark and serious for the game’s own good? Maybe. Is David Hayter’s absence as the voice of Snake sorely missed? Absolutely.
Kojima mixed up the Metal Gear formula with the PSP release Peace Walker, and it’s clear that he’s building upon that with foundation with Ground Zeroes. While I loved Peace Walker, it doesn’t hold a candle to the first four mainline entries in my mind. Everyone has their tastes and is entitled to their own opinion, I just hope that The Phantom Pain is more reminiscent of MGS 1-3 than Ground Zeroes has proven to be.
Chandler: We haven’t released our official review yet, but it should be coming soon, hopefully before the weekend is over. No question about it, Ground Zeroes is a teaser. I partially blame the rabid fans for it being released so early and as a standalone title. With everyone clamoring for a new Metal Gear, Kojima couldn’t resist releasing Ground Zeroes just to tease and show off the Fox Engine. I wish that he had waited. I wish that we could have waited.
Like the divisions in missions before, Ground Zeroes could have easily taken the approach of the Tanker section in MGS2, but instead you’ll need to pay nearly $100 for the full MGSV experience. Unlike you Alex, I really enjoyed the dynamic of Peace Walker and the building up of your own base, but I can see where you miss the classic feel of Metal Gear, and can agree that there is something missing from Ground Zeroes that I can’t quite put my finger on. Oh wait… it’s the entire rest of the game.
Chandler: Crazy, it looks like I’m the reviewer for all three of the big releases this week, AND I had to move to a new house. How I managed, I’m still not sure, but I’m glad the week is over. Second Son really has nothing new or groundbreaking to speak of in terms of gameplay or story. It’s a basic open-world super-powered game, with a focus on traversal, melee combat, and mashing the R2 button to fire your power in traditional third person shooter style. What stood out for me was the solidarity of the entire package, and that alone made the game great.
Every little detail and aspect was expertly produced. The guy who modeled the trees and lamp posts obviously loved his job and it shows. Someone put joy into making all of the puddles in the game. The lighting was incredible. And the sound design – The sound design was Second Son’s beautifully bright and shining spotlight; from the effects, to the soundtrack, to the voice acting. If games can use what inFAMOUS did in showcasing how the PS4’s power can unify and mesh each element in a game as a benchmark, we’re in for a stellar generation of gaming.
Alex: You’ve had a busy week indeed, and, from what it sounds like, some amazing games to review. I’ve never been able to get into Sucker Punch’s superpower-charged action series, and I fear Second Son won’t pull me in either. I’m just not a huge fan of games with a massive open world. Yeah… I must confess, I really prefer more linear experiences with a tighter narrative, but that doesn’t mean this PS4 exclusive isn’t amazing and totally worth checking out. The visuals alone have me in awe. Like you said, Chandler, if this is only the tip of the next-gen iceberg, PlayStation gamers are in for a real treat.
This week brought with it a number of fantastic games for the PlayStation faithful. PS4 owners have been patiently waiting for the next big exclusive, and Second Son looks like it won’t disappoint. Toss in an HD remaster of one of the PS2’s greatest games of all time, as well as the prologue to the next proper installment in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, and you’ve got one of the biggest weeks of 2014. Oh yeah, and did I mention Sony blew the lid off its plans for virtual reality? Project Morpheus is coming and it looks amazing. Of course, no week is perfect, as two of Sony’s first-party studios lost some noteworthy talent, but alas, we can’t have it all, can we?
Overall Score: 9/10
Continue the conversation with the staff and other readers about this week in review in the PSLS Forums.