Now Playing: Final Fantasy X and X-2

A long time ago, when these games first came out I played Final Fantasy X. I got kind of sick of it fairly quickly it felt more like a cynical attempt to sell guides than a real game with its narrow set of workable tactics and each enemy feeling like a mini puzzle-boss. I gave up fairly quickly. In fact, I gave up on Final Fantasy as a whole for the longest time.

With the release of the remastered version I thought it was time to give it another chance as this is a game beloved by many whose opinions I respect.

I was wrong. I shouldn’t have given it another chance, I think I was right the first time. The sphere grid is tedious, the world isn’t very interesting. The characters tiresome. Tidus is simply excruciating and Yuna isn’t a great deal better. Kimahri talk no good. The fun of not understanding Al Bhed.

Blitzball.

Fortunately the remastered version on the PC does come with built-in cheats, so at least I could see what was on offer story-wise. This didn’t really make me like the games either, but I did very much enjoy the ending of X. Not in the sarcastic glad it’s over way, I just thought it was very good. X-2 made lots of improvements to the system and initially I liked it quite a bit more. Rikku, a character I expected to dislike, really grew on me in X-2 – I didn’t really understand the addition of Paine, as she seemed v Lulu-alike.

Killing off the atrocious sphere grid was a welcome subtraction from FFX, whilst I liked the versatility of the sphere grid, the actual levelling interface was dull, repetitive and glacially slow. I also appreciated the lighter more fun post-Sin Spira. Sadly, the game soon became mired in tedium as endless series of mostly unrelated side-quests become the main quest. Although saying that, it was refreshing just how much of the game was truly optional. An interesting experiment inexplicably dressed up in hot-pants.

I did learn where FFXIII came from though. I was surprised at the many structural similarities. Paradigms are sets of dresspheres. The linear progression of the original, with a sequel with the ability to travel to different bits at will. The afore-mentioned sidequests. The levelling system in 13 is a strange combination of X and X-2 – the tedium of manually moving between nodes is now automatic, but you pick the job to improve in. Even the sequels map – X-2 isn’t about Tidus, and XIII-2 isn’t about Lightning.

I was actually surprised how much I disliked my time with X and, to a lesser extent X-2. I sort of expected them to win me over considering how other people talk about them, but it felt more like this was just a prototype of XIII which everyone else seems to hate despite it being roughly parallel to the highly regarded X.

I’ll have to simply continue to not get the praise for X and the inverse for XIII.

Now Playing: Forza Horizon 4

Finally, a driving game set in my home country.

Sorta.

I was actually expecting more of a The Crew style affair with the ability to traverse a scale version of the whole country taking slightly under an hour to cross the whole thing. That isn’t what we got in the end with the game being smaller than the last outing (which I haven’t played, this is really my first Forza outside of demos and the free Forza Motorsport 6: Apex). Rather there are four seasons of a squished sampling of Britain with one city (a welcome Edinburgh to the expected London), a few scattered towns and villages, and a great patchwork of fields.

Anyway, the game is super fun unlike the more po-faced serious car collector racers (GT and main Forza games). It’s also weirdly free as you can get it from a free trial of XBox game pass. Saying that I might just buy it when the trial period is up as I’ll likely pop back to the game repeatedly over time. There’s very little else the game pass offers PC users as so few games are available through the game pass on cross-play.

Prey on PC versus Prey on PS4 – Fight!

So I’m trying to decide betwixt Prey on PC versus Prey on PS4.

Loading times

This one bugs me, the PC loads a lot faster than the PS4 version. A lot faster. But why is the bit I don’t get. As consoles became more and more PC-like and less specialised, we’re seen them increasingly use more PC-like hardware. In this case I have a not-particularly impressive large capacity mechanical drive in both the PC and PS4. The demo is installed to the hard drive, and even games when they arrive on blu-ray rather than download generally work the same in computer and console – once installed the disk is used to validate the install, and run the game installed on the hard drive. So why is one significantly faster than the other?

Advantage: PC

Controls

There actually shouldn’t be a difference here, this is the sort of game where accuracy with one axis isn’t massively important so it’ll be played on a controller anyway. In the case of the PS4 I’m using their controller of course, and on PC the XBox One controller. Both are fine controllers, although I do think the XBox One controller is a bit better, so there’s not much in there. Right up until you actually play the game with them. These controllers have different characteristics that need to be catered for when you’re using one over the other, and I suspect that hasn’t happened here. When playing with the XBox controller, everything feels pretty much as you’d expect, but the PS4 controller feels like we have a huge deadzone to overcome with a smaller windows of useful pressure and then we go too fast at the extremes. It’s absolutely surmountable and playable on PS4. But it is better on PC. Feels exactly like they made the game with XBox controllers in mind and then mapped the Playstation controller with the exact same settings.

Advantage: PC

Graphics

It looks better on console, even with the settings on highest on the PC. I’m assuming this is down to something in the hardware of the PS4. Some effects worked better, and there was slightly more detail on the textures when up close. This was a surprise to me as I generally can’t tell the difference anymore between PC and PS4 except that it’s different (once again due to hardware lighting etc.), and generally my PC might have a higher framerate – it does here, the PC runs at a fairly stable 60fps, whereas the console appears to be in 30. But the console does look slightly better. Arguably the 60fps should push me in the direction of the PC, but as this isn’t really a fast-paced shooter or a racing game, it doesn’t really confer enough of an advantage to make me care more about that than the slight improvement in detail.

Advantage: PS4

Price

Much like graphics, the conventional wisdom is that PC does it better. Conventional wisdom also fails us here as it’s cheaper on console. Even from the Playstation Network the game is now selling for £34.99, whereas Steam has the game at £39.99. On Amazon and Argos, the difference is still there, with the PS4 version selling for around £30, and the PC version at £35-£38. Amazon did have an Amazon Prime special, which was a touch cheaper than the consoles though, with the XBox One edition getting its usual discount to encourage competition with the PS4. You can also buy second-hand on console, or recover some of initial price by selling the game when you’re done with it. You can of course wait for a steam sale, but that work mean it’ll be much cheaper than picking it up second hand.

Advantage: PS4

Future-proofing

On-line gaming services could die tomorrow, and so the PSN version and Steam editions could stop working, on the other hand, that’s not likely. When they do, which is better? You have a disk and a PS4, but then you have a sandboxed steam pirated version of the game too. Even the PC’s previous advantage of taking an old game and playing it in a modern resolution may no-longer be the exclusive province of the PC. Has the PS4’s 4k Pro version of the console gotten rid of this advantage? Nah, not really, the PS5 may not work with PS4 games (and if it does, it’ll likely work like PS Now), the PS4 Pro mostly just upscales to 4k – so it isn’t the same thing.

Advantage: PC

Cheat-ability

Prey doesn’t come with a New Game+ mode where you can start again retaining the abilities of the last run through. But I have a PC and CheatEngine. Now it does. Same reason I ended up re-buying Deus-Ex: Human Revolution on PC.

Advantage: PC

Recording

This one is important to me as a content creator, but probably won’t matter to most gamers, but then PC gamers keep telling me I should care about modding, so tough. Streaming from the PC when I have the single PC is fairly trivial, but streaming and recording and playing a game at the same time not so much. Many modern games run out of processing power when I do this (gpu encoding is used for streaming, but recording is better done with the cpu – which is why I have an eight-core cpu). Eventually when I get another PC this will be less of a concern, but for now, modern games work better on the console with the display being pushed to the PC.

Advantage: PS4

Conclusion

With those concerns in mind, I have decided on the PC version of Prey, as the way I’ll play the game doesn’t lend itself to the LP format, so even if streamed, it will be without commentary anyway. At that point, the most pertinent points become Cheat-ability, and control.