Google Stadia and the Game Preservation Problem

Most people are already aware of the major issues with streaming video games. Latency, data caps, subscription models, and ownership seem to get brought up every time a newcomer enters the streaming scene. However, these are all problems that will be sorted out over time. There is another concern that people don’t bring up as often as they should, though, and that is the problem of video game preservation.

This week, Google announced Stadia, their new service that will allow users to stream AAA video games to just about any screen they can think of, whether it be a television, a phone, a PC, or a tablet. The idea behind Stadia is great; lowering the entry barrier to gaming will open the doors of this great medium to so many people, but an all-streaming future presents problems that haven’t quite been experienced at a large scale yet.

Stadia games aren’t owned by the players, they’re just streamed from whatever data center the players happen to be connected to. What happens, then, if a game is pulled from Stadia? What if Stadia shuts down entirely? Games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Doom Eternal, both of which were featured prominently in Google’s keynote, will still be available on other platforms, but what about Stadia exclusive titles? Stadia Games and Entertainment is Google’s first-party studio tasked with creating exclusive games for the platform. This studio is comprised of incredibly talented developers who will no doubt create excellent games, but what becomes of these games when Stadia is gone? Even if Stadia is a runaway success, the servers will be turned off one day. It’s an inevitability, and when that inevitability happens, those games are lost.

Scenarios like this aren’t even hypothetical. They’ve already happened to beloved titles, both low-profile and high-profile alike. Konami pulled P.T. from the PlayStation Store following the cancellation of Silent Hills, and even those who own it can no longer redownload it. Aside from some very wonky workarounds (and a very faithful fan recreation on PC), P.T. can no longer be played. Being a strictly digital release that can no longer be downloaded, P.T. practically doesn’t exist anymore. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game were both pulled from digital storefronts as well, presumably due to licensing issues. On top of these examples, the closure of the Wii Shop Channel in January left a multitude of WiiWare titles abandoned, unable to be redownloaded.

Luckily, these games still have homes on consoles where they’re still installed. However, a service completely centered around streaming like Stadia won’t allow users to install games locally or access the files at all. When Stadia goes the way of the Wii Shop Channel, those games will be gone for good.

Even if games aren’t pulled from the service outright, there are still other issues that arise with an all-streaming future. Final Fantasy XV has undergone radical changes since its release back in 2016, and although it may be a better game in its current state, the vanilla version still has value, at least from a historical perspective. With a disc, the vanilla version is playable offline if updates aren’t installed, but a game like Destiny 2 doesn’t have that luxury. Vanilla Destiny 2 doesn’t exist anymore. Destiny 2 is not playable without updates or an internet connection, so there’s no way to experience the game as it launched.  At least with single-player games, older versions can be accessed offline, but with online games, the experience is constantly evolving, and older versions are lost. With streaming, even single-player games cannot be experienced pre-patch, and games might even be replaced by inferior versions, like the awful Silent Hill 2 HD version replacing the original masterpiece.

Game preservation is a tricky subject, especially in today’s climate of live services and ever-changing games. Regardless, video games are art. They’ve been recognized by the government as art since 2011 and they’ve been recognized by gamers as art for far longer, and it’s time for people to start taking game preservation more seriously, before some games end up permanently lost and forgotten.

The Problem with Devil May Cry 5

Capcom’s Devil May Cry 5 is currently sitting at an 87% on Metacritic, and I don’t understand why. The game is flawed on a fundamental level, holding onto tropes from over a decade ago for no reason, especially when so many advancements in game design have been made over the past two console generations. Devil May Cry 5 is an awful video game and it’s insulting that its myriad of issues have gone unnoticed by so-called game “journalists”.

Devil May Cry 5’s problems begin to present themselves as soon as you start the game, the first issue being a complete lack of direction. Where are the objective markers? The waypoints? There isn’t even a minimap, which is a complete oversight on Capcom’s part. This is abysmal game design. How am I supposed to know what to do without a gold diamond hovering over my destination? How will I know which route to take if I don’t have a dotted line to follow?

Navigation is only the start of Devil May Cry 5’s problems. For a game so heavily centered around combat, you’d think the combat would actually be good. Unfortunately, Devil May Cry 5 drops the ball in this department as well. The game is a mindless hack and slash in which you’ll find yourself mashing the attack button until the enemies die. There is no variety, there is no skill, and there is absolutely nothing engaging. Two of the three playable characters have guns, but the lack of any sort of customization through attachments or perks alongside the completely baffling design choice of not being able to aim down sights makes Devil May Cry 5’s gunplay feel shoddy when compared to other contemporary titles like Battlefield V or Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2.

Devil May Cry 5’s combat is not only insulting in its simplicity, but also insulting in the literal sense. The game’s archaic and dated rating system keeps calling my attacks “dismal”, which discourages me from even attempting combos. I did not pay $60 to be ridiculed, Capcom. On top of that, parts of the battle theme won’t play unless you can achieve high style rankings during combat. This sort of elitist game design hurts Devil May Cry 5 in the long run, restricting the soundtrack to the same repetitive drivel throughout the entirety of the game’s campaign. Arbitrarily gating things off and rewarding more skilled players creates an artificial barrier within the community, and this game would benefit infinitely from a paid easy combo system ala the ingenious easy fatality tokens in Mortal Kombat X.

Multiple weapon types are supplied in an attempt to break up the monotony, but they ultimately fail to spice things up due to their poor implementation. Nero’s devil breakers, for example, cannot be freely cycled between. Not only that, but they can also be broken. Without any kind of crafting system to repair or modify these disposable weapons, the devil breaker system feels contrived and poorly thought out. Considering the Tomb Raider reboot had crafting all the way back in 2013, it’s downright unacceptable for Devil May Cry 5 to launch without crafting 6 years later.

The game is also incredibly linear. There’s no open world, not even a social hub or anything, and the majority of the levels feel like hallways. Player choice is completely ignored in favor of an old-fashioned predetermined plot. I really wish there were dialogue options in the cutscenes so I could make my Dante feel different from everyone else’s Dante. A story with a defined beginning, middle, and end is a relic of a bygone era, and it feels like something straight out of an antiquated 2001 video game like Metal Gear Solid 2 or Max Payne.

Fans of the series will be exceptionally disappointed with the changes made to the Devil May Cry lore as well. Dante has white hair again, which totally ignores the changes made to his character in 2013’s DmC: Devil May Cry. Stomping all over continuity only serves to further scramble the franchise’s already confusing timeline, and for little to no purpose. Again, if there was a choice between hairstyles when playing as Dante (or even a wholly customizable protagonist, which should be a given in 2019) then maybe this would work, but in its current iteration it doesn’t feel earned.

The story isn’t the only thing that lacks any sort of choice or interactivity, either. The progression system is also very restricting. Devil May Cry 5 forgoes skill trees in favor of an old-school upgrade system in which you spend red orbs, the game’s currency, to upgrade abilities for different weapons. While this works in theory, in practice it only succeeds in annihilating any semblance of build diversity and taking freedom away from players. If players could specialize in ranged combat or stealth and be free to engage enemy encampments in their own way, it’d vastly improve the experience.

A weak story and campaign could be saved by a fulfilling endgame, but Devil May Cry 5’s endgame is anemic in comparison to its competition. The developers just expect players to repeat the campaign on a higher difficulty or aim for higher rankings on missions. Sadly, Devil May Cry 5 doesn’t have any challenging content to work toward or gear up for either. This is a full $60 game without a raid. Of course, Capcom hasn’t unveiled the 2019 roadmap for the game, but launching in a state this content light is a mistake, and the game will bleed players until new content is released.

Devil May Cry 5 has moments where it shines, but these are few and far between, absolutely overshadowed by the assortment of flaws. Sometimes revivals of classic franchises work out, just look at Mega Man 11. Other times, however, it’s best to let the classics remain just that: classics. Maybe there’s a reason it’s been 11 years since DMC 4. Unfortunately, Devil May Cry 5 has a ridiculously small amount of content that is almost never compelling in any way. Its desire to hang on to what made the originals so great ultimately drags down the final product in the end, resulting in a game that feels straight out of the early 2000’s.

(In case you couldn’t tell, this is 100% satire. Please play Devil May Cry 5.)

Five Division 2 Tips to Help You Get Started

The Division 2 has the majority of the features added to the original game over its three year lifespan available at launch, making it one of the most content-rich looter shooters on the market. There’s a lot to take in and a lot to learn, so we’re here to give you some pointers to aid you in your fight to take back D.C.

Check everywhere for loot

The Division 2 isn’t stingy when it comes to loot drops. It’s quite the opposite, actually. D.C. isn’t only littered with trash, but also loot. A good chunk of the crates, backpacks, and bags you come across can be searched for weapons and resources. Make sure to check alleyways and garages for any tucked way caches, and shoot any locks standing between you and a chest. Even if you only get resources like food or water, it adds up.

Do your projects

Settlements like the Theater, which you encounter very early in the game, provide you with optional projects. These projects require you to donate a mixture of gear and resources in order to improve the settlement. The rewards are incredibly useful, ranging from XP to blueprints to bounties. Be sure to hang onto spare weapons and armor just in case you need to donate them. Junk items can be donated, too, so see your projects officer before dismantling any unwanted pieces of gear.

Weapon skins can only be applied to certain rarities

Being a game centered around loot, it’s only natural you’d want to customize your gear to better suit your style. Unfortunately, weapon skins cannot be applied to white and green rarity guns. The same goes for armor and dyes. Only blue gear and above can be personalized, so those of you with special skins from pre-orders or the Ubisoft Club will have to wait a while. Once you’ve acquired a blue item, you can personalize it in the mod menu.

Optimize your perk selection

There are a vast array of perks to choose from in The Division 2, but there’s only so much SHD Tech to spend in the opening hours. Your first batch of SHD Tech should go directly into the Accolade perks, which provide you with more XP for headshots, killing multiple enemies at the same time, destroying weakpoints, and the like. This will speed up your progression and earn you field proficiency caches at a faster rate. After unlocking the Accolade perks, unlock the Field Proficiency Cache perk, which gives you a 50% chance to receive a bonus item when opening a Field Proficiency Cache. Lastly, make sure to pick up the Deconstruction perks, which give you extra materials when deconstructing gear. After investing in these three perks, spend your SHD Tech however you like, but we recommend upping your inventory space and unlocking attachments.

Reload during cover transitions

Enemies in The Division 2 take more than a couple bullets to go down, so you’ll find yourself reloading quite often. It’s not hard to find yourself in a bad spot, out of ammo and being rushed down by a melee enemy. You can reload your weapon while transitioning from cover to cover, so be sure to top off your ammo count while you move to a more strategic location. A full magazine and ideal positioning can mean the difference between life or death in The Division 2, so why not cover all your bases at the same time?

The Division 2 is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Over A Decade Later, Far Cry 2 is Still The Best in the Series

Far Cry games are all about gratification. You get to run, drive, and fly around beautiful open worlds, armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry, gunning down the bad guys like an unstoppable killing machine. It feels good, but the games just sort of hand you everything. Not Far Cry 2, though. Far Cry 2 fights back, and that’s why it’s the best game in the series.

Far Cry always struggles with blending gritty realism and survival with lighthearted open world fun, and while later games lean more toward open world shenanigans, Far Cry 2 is all grit, all the time. Set in an unnamed African country embroiled in a bloody civil war, Far Cry 2 never lets the player feel safe. And that’s brilliant.

The setting itself plays a huge role in that. Being a video game from 2008, you better believe Far Cry 2 is drowning in different shades of brown and gray. That’s not to say it isn’t pretty, there are still stunning vistas and landscapes to behold, but the environment feels oppressive. Other games in the series try to do this by just throwing a bunch of wildlife at you, but I never felt as unwelcome in the mountains of Kyrat as I did roaming the jungles and savannas of Far Cry 2.

The gameplay is a far cry from other Far Cry games too (I apologize for that joke). 3, 4, and 5 supply you with shiny new assault rifles tricked out with multiple attachments, alongside buckets of ammunition. Far Cry 2’s weaponry is held together with duct tape. Your guns will jam, and they will jam at the worst times. Your guns will fall apart in your hands. These are not the pristine firearms of later Far Cry games, these are heavily used, poorly maintained weapons caked in dirt and grime, and you’ll have to work if you want better equipment. These guns aren’t the laser beams most other first person shooters give you either, you have to manage and control your aim to land shots. It’s tough, and combat is incredibly tense because of it.

There’s also the issue of malaria. Very early in the game, you contract malaria, and you need pills to suppress the negative effects. Pills, however, are scarce, and the malaria stays remains an issue throughout the entirety of the game. You’ll feel the effects of it at random, even in combat, and you’ll lose control until you take a pill, or pass out and wake up at the doctor’s if you’re out. Far Cry 2 very rarely lets things go according to plan. You may think you’ve planned out the perfect outpost takedown, but then malaria strikes, or your gun james in the firefight, or there’s a fire, or the car you planned to escape with won’t start. This forces you to react and respond, and it makes for incredibly engaging gameplay.

The buddy system is another one of Far Cry 2’s dynamic systems. Rather than playing a predetermined, voiced character, you choose one of nine mercenaries. The other eight aren’t just forgotten, though, they’re out running around like you are, and they’ll even help you out in combat, give you side missions, and save you before you die. Buddies can die, too, and you make even have to be the one to put them down. The buddy system creates memorable emergent stories. Maybe a buddy swooped in and rescued you after a malaria attack left you vulnerable. Maybe a buddy called you on your way to a mission and offered an alternative means of completion. The buddy system and the sandbox Far Cry 2 provides creates highly personal stories that you’ll want to share with people, just like something out of Breath of the Wild. Far Cry 4 and 5’s Guns for Hire system is just a hollow shell of what the buddy system once was. Sure, Hurk’s lines might get a chuckle out of me every now and then, but that’s nothing compared to the time I had to mercy kill my buddy Warren.

Far Cry 2 also excels in its UI. For the most part, there’s never anything on your screen. When you shoot you’ll get an ammo count and health info, but that’s pretty much it. The lack of UI really helps immerse you in the world, and, like the Metro games, the map is a physical item you have to look at, and it makes navigating more fun than just pressing start and placing a waypoint. The map might seem like a small detail, but it really adds a whole new layer to the experience.

Of course, the game does have its faults. Enemies at outposts respawn way too quickly, to the point where if you drive away and turn right back around, there’ll be new enemies. It really gets old when you’re just trying to reach an objective on the other side of the map. The voice acting is stilted to say the least, and the story is as generic as they come. The shooting also feels clunky compared to today’s standards. This is a decade old game, after all.

Despite these flaws, Far Cry 2 is still a phenomenal video game. It nails the feeling of a hostile environment like no other game. You really are just some guy lost in the jungle with nothing but a map, a worn down gun, and a deadly disease. Not even a character, just one of nine mercenaries. Just another solider in a world where you’re not treated like a superhero or a one man army. Far Cry 2 has a vision that it commits to wholeheartedly, and because of that, it fosters its own unique identity and I’ve yet to play anything like it to this day. It sets out to create a specific mood and it accomplishes that with flying colors. If only Ubisoft would look back at this one instead of the follow up.

What’s your favorite Far Cry game? Are you going to play Far Cry New Dawn (which was featured in our 30 Games to Look Out For in 2019 list)? Be sure to let us know down below, and follow us on Twitter for quick and easy updates.

Anthem’s Demo Was Weak But Promising

So the Anthem demo happened.

I’ve played a lot of Anthem over the past two weekends and while it’s not the dumpster fire some might lead you to believe it is, it definitely has its share of problems.

Before we get into the gameplay, the story, and all that fun stuff, I have to mention the plethora of technical issues I encountered during my time with Anthem, especially during the VIP Demo weekend. Server issues were rampant. I logged less than an hour of play time the first weekend because I couldn’t even get into the game. When I did, my time was cut short by infinite load screens or crashes. It was a mess.

This is what people saw for the majority of weekend one.

Luckily, the second weekend fared much better. I could actually play the game, which was nice. However, textures wouldn’t load, the draw distance was abysmal, environments were barren, enemies would despawn, and the framerate was consistently below 30fps on PS4 Pro. All of that on top of a noticeable graphical downgrade from what we saw at E3 2018.

There was an abundance of gameplay glitches too, not just visual ones. When I would die, my respawn timer would count down from 5 and then say “respawning”, but I never did. I had to wait for a teammate to come and revive me, but a lot of the time squadmates would be AFK or just not even care. I just had to wait or abandon the mission. Sometimes enemies wouldn’t take damage from my attacks. Other times they would take damage but they’d just ignore me and stand in place. I had to close the game once because the exit button stopped working while I was customizing my javelin.

During most of the time I spent with Anthem, Anthem did not work. Considering this game is out next week for EA Access subscribers, it’s not in a good spot. But how’s the gameplay? Surely flying around in those cool suits and shooting ash titans with your friends is a good time, right? Well, sort of.

Flying around big enemies was a highlight.

The javelins are awesome. Learning to balance flying and hovering with being on the ground and managing cooldowns creates a relatively high skill ceiling. A really good Interceptor, for example, won’t get hit often if they utilize their jumps, dodges, and flight efficiently. Each javelin handles differently from one another. The Ranger is the balanced one and handles just like you’d expect it to. The Interceptor is the agile glass cannon that can weave in and out of incoming fire with three jumps and quick dodges. The Colossus is the tank and it has quite a heft to it, so it can’t move too quickly, but it can take a lot of damage. The Storm is essentially the Warlock from Destiny, relying on elemental attacks to do damage and handling way floatier than the other three. Navigating combat arenas in whichever javelin you may choose feels good, and nailing your cooldown management so you don’t overheat is a fun challenge on top of regular shooting.

Of course, you won’t be spending all your time flying. Anthem is a shooter, not a flight-sim, after all. Unfortunately, the gunplay in Anthem just isn’t good. A game’s shotgun is an easy way of telling how good the shooting is. Destiny? Great shotguns. Doom? Even better. Anthem? It’s like I’m shooting marshmallows instead of bullets. I spent most of my time as the nimble, close-range Interceptor, so I would fly in and expect to blast somebody point-blank with my shotgun, except it didn’t feel nearly as powerful as it should’ve. Using a shotgun in Anthem feels like using an Airzooka. The rest of the arsenal feels a bit better, but enemies are spongy and don’t react to getting shot. Guns in Anthem just feel weak, and that’s a shame when its competitors do it so much better.

Abilities feel much better than guns.

What Anthem does better than its competitors, though, is team play. Anthem has a combo system that’s very poorly explained, but once understood, it adds a layer of depth to the combat system. Some javelin abilities are primers, which usually afflict enemies with a status effect. If these enemies are then hit with a detonator ability, it’ll combo with the primer and do a lot of damage. Having a squadmate prime a bunch of enemies with a flamethrower so I could fly in and detonate with a melee ability felt good, and combos like these are a necessity at higher difficulties. Not every ability is a primer or a detonator though, and those falling outside of either category seem useless in comparison.

The customization system is pretty deep. Not only can you paint each individual part of your javelin, but you can also change the material and the wear status of each part. Want to run a bright pink leather Interceptor? You can. How about a battle-scarred red and black Colossus with metal plates laid over rubber? Go for it. There was only one additional vanity set available for each javelin in the demo, but people got really creative with mixing and matching just the base set and the one extra one we got. It seemed the first minute or so of every mission involved my squad and I inspecting each other’s javelins and looking at the cool designs other players had come up with (or laughing at ridiculous material/color schemes). Player expression is a huge part of this genre, and Anthem nails this aspect so far.

Anthem’s endgame has me worried, though. The endgame will consist of daily missions, strongholds, of which there are only three, and cataclysms, events that change the open world and present players with new challenges and rewards. Daily mission and strongholds offer a decent amount of content, especially the strongholds, which last about half an hour or longer on harder difficulties, but I feel they won’t be enough to keep players engaged for a long time. Cataclysms, ideally, offer the variety Anthem so dearly needs, but the “small tease” we got right before the demo ended worries me. All it did was change the skybox and spawn strong enemies, but that’s not a big enough change to keep players interested, and the spawn rates are so low that you just end up flying around aimlessly for 15 minutes until you find one ash titan.

The Storm event popped up Sunday evening for the final hours of the public demo.

Hopefully a strong campaign will make up for a relatively weak endgame experience, and Anthem might actually be able to provide one. The mission design was simplistic, it’s the same go here and kill this design philosophy that so many multiplayer shooters employ today, but some of the boss fights were really cool and made me utilize my movement abilities to dodge area of effect attacks or weave in and out of rings of fire. The writing also didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out, which is a plus. The scenario the demo let us play through kept me somewhat engaged, but cutscenes dragged a little. Of course, it’s hard to judge the full story now, but Anthem does show some promise in that regard.

The majority of the game’s narrative segments take place in Fort Tarsis, the game’s single player hub. Here you’ll pick up quests, shop at vendors, and talk to people. It’s strange having the hub in a game like this be strictly single-player, but a social hub is coming at launch. There are some other strange decisions about Fort Tarsis, like the movement speed being way too slow, or having a generic five second song loop right next to the vendors, but Bioware has stated they’re adding some quality of life features for Fort Tarsis for the game’s full release, and the social hub will hopefully alleviate some of the other issues with the antisocial nature of Fort Tarsis.

Anthem has a lot of problems. The gunplay needs some work, the game needs a lot of technical improvements under the hood, and it’s in desperate need of substantial endgame content. However, what’s here is a promising foundation that could possibly blossom into a fantastic cooperative shooter. I just hope it won’t be too late by the time that happens.