In a move that needed to be made to match key competitor Spark (who’ve offered contract deals for Xbox Series S/X), Vodafone says its long-term goal is to make gaming more accessible to New Zealanders in an entertainment medium that is already on a high uptake.
How that accessibility point is ushered in is a fascinating prospect as 5G rolls out nationwide over the next year.
The deal, which is available from Thursday, could also provide a small lifeline for gamers who missed out on preordering the hotly anticipated PS5 back in September when all launch day stock sold out in a matter of hours after PlayStation revealed its $820 price tag for New Zealand customers.
Finer details about how gamers can purchase the PS5 through the telco remain vague at the time of writing, but Vodafone has confirmed that sales will be online only and can be placed from Thursday, November 12th.
Whether or not Vodafone will allow the PS5 to be purchased on a contract (allowing people to pay it off over 24 months) or whether a full payout will be required is also unclear. Currently, the Vodafone website is showing the full RRP for the PS5 and PS5 All Digital consoles ($819 and $649 respectively).
TheRealMichaelPulman reached out to Vodafone to clarify purchasing options but haven’t heard back at the time of writing.
Those who signed up to purchase the Xbox Series consoles through the Xbox All Access Program via Spark pay $52 per month for the premium X version while the smaller all-digital S version comes in at $40 per month with both plans coming bundled with the popular Xbox Game Pass service.
Vodafone Consumer Director Carolyn Luey says that the skills and popularity of gaming made the decision to partner with PlayStation one of benefit to its consumers.
“Gaming brings people together and develops valuable skills such as problem-solving, concentration and critical thinking”, Luey said, “it is enjoyed by people of all walks of life and is increasing in popularity at an exponential rate.”
In 2019, Vodafone partnered with esports provider LetsPlay.Live (LPL) and has produced several esports tournaments, leagues and and experiences throughout 2020.
For the purposes of this review, I’ll be talking about the Titan model of this chair but it is worth pointing out that you can buy this in two other models… the smaller Omega version and the extra-large Titan XL version.
The first thing that stood out when we got this chair was the ease of setup. Secretlab has really tried to make assembly a breeze with all assembly tools are provided with a cool little accessory box to store them in afterward.
In terms of the instructions, you get a nice big picture instruction display.
Set up took around 15 – 20 minutes but would be quicker with two people. Wheels screw onto the wheelbase which is then inserted into the bottom of the main seat frame. The armrests come pre-built onto the frame and the backrest attaches easily to each side at the rear.
Materials wise, what’s immediately noticeable is that Secretlab didn’t spare any expense on the 2020 model. Using what’s called Prime 2.0 PU leather, Secretlab says that the fabrics on this chair are up to four times more durable than any other chair on the market.
Cold-cure foam under the upholstery and the mold of the chair shapes to the user’s lower back. There is also a comfortable memory foam pillow can also attach and detach from the backrest.
In terms of actually sitting in the seat, there is an overall firmness with a solid underlay which makes for a different feel to your average seat.
Obviously, you’d expect that given this is a specialized chair and given it retails for over $700NZD.
Visually, the chair is striking. Wherever I put it in the house, be that the lounge or in my bedroom, the design truly drew my attention with a good balance of striking logos and a simple mix of black and red color across most of the frame.
That leads me to one of the criticisms many have of these sorts of chairs, is it just all for the looks?
Well, materially and as a chair that you’d expect to spend a lot of hours sitting in, the Secretlab Titan certainly feels just as premium a product as it looks, but again, at a $700 NZ Dollar price tag, you’d definitely expect that and it’s a hefty investment to justify if you’re just getting it for the visuals.
I personally loved the look of this chair, logos are also molded into the plastic of the armrests which is a cool, albeit slightly meaningless point in the grand scheme of things.
Speaking of the arm wrests, they can be moved sideways, from front to back, with height adjustments and a full metal internal mechanism. The lumbar support on the lower back can also be adjusted, and the chair can also lock into full recline which allows the user to have a power nap if need be.
So, that’s what you need to know about all the features of this chair and how it will serve the average user. It is undoubtedly one of the best chairs on the market today and I’d highly recommend it for most people, especially if you spend multiple hours working at a desk each day.
I even had a few able-bodied people try it out and they all said it surprised them in terms of how comfortable it actually was.
But what about for disabled people such as myself who might be wondering if this can serve as a viable option for a seat when sitting at our computer? Can this possibly match up to A the comfort and B the support your wheelchair provides you?
The answer is, well, it’s complicated and it really depends on the end-user.
For disabled people who have a good amount of upper body strength, the posture support of this chair is great, but the bigger question really centres around those who may be more physically restricted. If you do fall into this category, despite the ability to move armrests back and forward, up and down, and side to side, this chair won’t provide the support you’re likely needing to move freely.
For myself personally, as someone who has specialized seating on my power wheelchair as a result of very little upper body strength, I found I couldn’t do much when sitting in the chair unaided. Don’t get me wrong, it’s comfortable, it looks nice, but the benefits here are really for your average user who can do a bit more for themselves.
This didn’t surprise me in the slightest Secretlab didn’t go into this designing a purpose-built gaming chair to cater for the physically disabled, but in terms of that particular demographic, the Secretlab Titan is a hard sell because it won’t be until you actually get into the thing until you know if it can meet your needs or not.
And again, at just over $700 NZD, that’s a hell of an expensive trial.
Disclaimer: The Secretlab Titan was provided to us for review purposes.
That’s exactly the vision of 25-year old school administrator Stacey Bartlett in her creation that utilses the DREAMS platform on PlayStation 4.
Pick It Up Quick! Is a fairly simple concept where the player is tasked with trying to collect as much rubbish as possible in 45-seconds, all in a beautifully reconstructed versions of two popular New Zealand beaches.
Tokahaki Point, Kapiti Island and Tāhunanui Beach, Nelson are both featured in the title which aims to tackle the real life problem of litter on New Zealand beaches, encouraging players to become citizen scientists of their own.
Since release, the game has been played more than 3000 times across 50 countries with over 100,000 people tuning in on Twitch.
But behind the early success comes a simple and important message that encourages players to relate to what they see in the game and look at ways to reduce their own impact on the environment.
For Bartlett, it will be especially impactful for those who have visited either Tokahaki Point or Tāhunanui Beach in the real world.
“I want people who have visited Tāhunanui Beach in Nelson to play the game and recognise the beach”, Bartlett said, “hopefully they can then understand the scale of the problem and take action to stop the litter getting there in the first place.”
Officially launched by Sustainable Coastlines as part of its Litter Intelligence project, the partnership is one of the first of its kind with UK-based gaming developer Media Molecule approaching Bartlett to publish the game on DREAMS.
“I’ve always loved creating things and I’d been experimenting with DREAMS for a while when Media Molecule approached me”, Bartlett said, “I’ve been playing PlayStation since I was eight so it was exciting and nerve wracking to be asked but I worked closely with the Sustainable Coastlines team to try and make the coastlines as realistic as possible.”
Bartlett’s enthusiasm and skill on the development side caught the attention of Media Molecule early on, receiving praise from the highest desk at the developer.
“What Stacey has achieved is incredible and she’s a talented creator,” says Siobhan Reddy, studio director at Media Molecule.
“We’ve seen some pretty wonderful creations within DREAMS and this is right up there, the community aspect of gameplay that encourages education and understanding is really impressive.”
Pick It Up Quick! Is available on DREAMS for PlayStation 4
With the F1 and Dirt series both getting rave reviews in recent years, sooner or later, the question of if Codemasters are beginning to reach the ceiling or their own powers is one that has to be asked.
Racing has always been their thing (remember back to the days of TOCA and V8 Supercars entries?), but it’s been in this particular gaming generation that they’ve not had to deal with a flood of games hitting the popular racing genre.
Despite what feels like fewer straight-up racers, the competition has been mighty stiff.
Over on the Xbox side, Forza Horizon 4 has been widely reviewed as one of the most accessible and fun racers in modern gaming history, while what Slightly Mad Studios have delivered with the Project Cars series has proved formidable in the console sim racing space, with impressive sim racer Assetto Corza also now a regular.
Rival motorsports such as Moto GP and WRC both have their own official games, but neither reach the depth that the F1 series has over the years.
Codemasters have always strived to deliver a fully licensed racer that caters to both the sim racer and gamers who’re simply looking to pick up and play. F1 2020 continues that fine trend, and despite it catering to the sport of F1 only (obviously), it’s also the most accessible entry to date with its wide range of assists than can make the experience worthy in either direction, arcade or hardcore.
F1 2020 feels like Codemasters reaching the very pinnacle of their powers with the current technology at hand, on the racing front at least.
One could argue that the My Team addition was slightly late in the piece because there is no logical reason why this couldn’t have featured in F1 2019 or F1 2018. My Team, a new mode that allows you to run your own team as both a driver and owner, builds on much of what the largely unchanged Career Mode already brought to the table while adding in the financial management side and the ability to create liveries, choose engine maker, etc.
My Team isn’t what sells F1 2020 in my view, because as has been the case with each subsequent release year on year, the real selling point is the on-track experience you’re getting with this racer. F1 2020 continues a hybrid between hardcore sim and a racer casual gamers can have fun with, but how it will keep true racing fans engaged is its real strength.
Understanding F1 as a motorsport is a must in order to appreciate this title to the level it truly deserves.
The best moments of F1 2020 are the intensely close races that rely on a solid strategy and a willingness to turn as many of the assists off to give yourself a good challenge on the tarmac.
Setting the difficulty upwards of 80 – 85 (the range considered in the hard category) will make chasing down the likes of Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes front-runners a truly monumental challenge, one that can only be beaten by consistent good pace and a winning strategy.
F1 2020 encourages that skill and strategy in a way that is as clear as the entries that came before it, and for what’s likely the last entry in this current generation of consoles, the real challenge for this franchise moving forward will be to keep with what works and explore ways to provide more value in the graphical department – something that both PS5 and Xbox Series X will likely help with.
My thanks once again to Koch Media for providing me with a code for this game.
Before I knew it, hours had completely passed by me on a day that originally had been set aside as a day strictly for work.
Perhaps the joys of being a freelancer, you’re often able to make your own schedule, and when I realized that the latest project wasn’t in need of dire attention, I figured a quick pick up game of something on the PS4 would suffice.
GTA V, and its ever-popular online mode (aptly named GTA Online), never ceases to amaze me in how busy it keeps itself. Given that the Summer 2020 update has just dropped, I thought I’d quickly jump in and see what was new.
There is a lot that’s new here… and most of it is great.
I particularly like the Open Wheel racing addition, it’s a far more grounded way to race others in comparison to the often crazy Transform series for example. Perhaps I liked this particular addition because it’s somewhat more ‘normal’, if anything in the world of GTA Online can be labeled such, but what it also did is make me appreciate what Rockstar has continued to deliver with their service.
Sure, the pay-to-be-flashy model is tiresome, but that’s the only way Rockstar is making money on GTA Online at this point.
The originally promised single-player DLC add-on has basically been a non-event, in fact, remind me, did they ever get round to releasing that? I could swear that they haven’t.
GTA Online, as it has from the very start, caters to just about everyone by way of its variety.
Shooter fan? Ok, the mechanics are average, but you’ve got some seriously diverse options here. Today I jumped into a King of the Hill match and totally enjoyed capturing and defending zones.
Then I had a go at the tried and tested Survival suite of matches, and let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying (at least as a long time fan of the GTA franchise with a deep love for San Andreas in particular) than returning to Grove Street for a Survival shootout against the purple-wearing ballers.
Bounty missions are fun, and thanks to them being spread out right across the map, traveling to the next poor soul in line to meet the wrath of my shotgun gave me time to truly soak in the world that Rockstar has created here. Of course, in 2020, everyone has an open-world game to their name but trips around Mount Chilliad show me that various little additions to the environment, from new gang sites and freshly built buildings, have all been crafted with the detail you’d come to expect.
For as tiresome as some gamers may label GTA Online, there is no doubt that it remains a constantly built upon project by Rockstar.
In comparison to Red Dead Redemption and that particular online offering, the playability in GTA Online has always been bounds ahead, and it remains so with this particular update, one which again brings just enough new additions, however small, to make it worth taking a look at.
If Red Dead Online is a grind, GTA Online is built for immediate fun. If you can get past how damn expensive all the in-game items are, and you can tolerate some at times terrible frame rate performance, the Summer Update keeps on giving.
Again, try the Open Wheel racing mode! It truly is a gas (if you can get the pun?).
With a growing base of passionate gamers playing on PC in New Zealand, Secretlab has noticed a high uptake in orders from the Australian and Singapore distribution centres, often costing gamers a premium in import costs.
Secretlab CEO Ian Alexander Ang says that setting up a local store would allow gamers to purchase the specialised chairs at a lower cost.
“We’ve consistently seen customers in New Zealand pay extra for shipping from our Australia store, with some early adopters even going out of their way to ship their chairs from Singapore. As a result, we wanted to set up a local store so they could get our chairs more readily, at a lower cost, and with quicker warranty support”, Ang said.
New Zealand’s growing game development market was also another reason Secretlab felt the expansion would be a good on the back of continued growth in gaming during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“New Zealand is a country of avid gamers, and it boasts a thriving game development market. It is also home to Grinding Gear Games, the developer of Path of Exile, one of the most popular action role-playing games in the world.”
Customers will be able to order the OMEGA and TITAN versions of the chair starting on Thursday July 16 from www.secretlab.co.nz
Secretlab is the top choice of the world’s most successful esports teams and the biggest gaming tournaments, including Dota 2’s The International and the League of Legends World Championship.
The world’s winningest teams and esports athletes across the largest and most popular esports titles choose Secretlab to equip them with the extra performance edge they need to bring home even more trophies, from back-to-back The International winners OG to esports legacy powerhouse Team Liquid.
In all my years as a gamer, playing as a samurai has never been at the top of my list of to do’s. Thanks to my lack of knowledge of modern or historic Japanese culture, plus a total obliviousness to the Mongol invasions back in the 1200’s, this could easily have been a title to overlook in the already impressive lineup of excellent PlayStation exclusives.
As it turns out – I’m glad I didn’t sleep on Ghost of Tsushima – because it’s an excellent game and a new personal best for Sucker Punch Productions who have taken an almighty risk by leaving Infamous in the shadows.
Taking the role of Jin Sakai, a young samurai, you’re immediately propelled into a cross-country mission in search of justice. Sure, that’s nothing new for an action-adventure game, nor is a vast open-world full of areas to explore and regions to liberate from enemy forces.
But a yawn fest this game is not.
From the beginning, it’s clear that Sucker Punch are true to their word in how the original development for their latest title took inspiration from the likes of Red Dead Redemption and Zelda Breath of the Wild, but there is also a decent hint of Assassins Creed about some the game that players should notice quickly.
Like in Breath of the Wild, the world in Ghost of Tsushima encourages the “if you can see it, chances are you can get to it” mantra to its exploration. The biggest difference to Zelda and other well-done open worlds is how the environment itself can be your guiding compass to the next destination. If you’ve selected a location on the map, a simple swipe up on the Dualshock’s touchpad will trigger a ‘guiding wind’ where the breeze points you into the direction you need to be going.
It doesn’t ever get old and I personally found myself using the feature more and more, preferring this cool (albeit slightly tokenistic) mechanic to find my way around rather than just going from the traditional ‘point A to B’ with an ugly guiding line in the middle of your screen.
Sucker Punch hasn’t tried to rewrite the rulebook of an open-world adventure title, they’ve just added their own spin to it, and it works.
Visuals That Will Make Your Jaw Drop
Speaking of the world itself, Ghost of Tsushima is one of the most visually stunning gaming experiences ever made. Period.
During the over six-year development, Sucker Punch devs took regular trips to real-world Japan and the Island of Tsushima (located between mainland Japan and the Korean Peninsula) to get a true sense of the world they wanted to capture in the game.
Work included taking hundreds of photo scanned leaves, tree models, grass, and bush in their bid to develop as realistic a world as possible based on the real thing. From an audio perspective, Sucker Punch also took the time to record various nature sounds, such as birds and the sound of wind rustling through trees in forests.
It all works in the final product, but it’s the visuals that truly stand out, the cool atmospheric sounds are just a bonus.
Whether it be tall mountains in the distance, smoke pouring out of a building on another horizon, a shrine on a hilltop, or the several wonderfully detailed Japanese temples, Ghost of Tsushima feels like a world that is alive and well.
Of course, the game is based (albeit loosely) on the first Mongol Invasion of Japan in 1274. To build an experience around a real-life historic event and not put in the detail to do it justice would’ve been easily noticeable to gamers, and what Sucker Punch achieve in this area could be a lesson other developers could learn.
It’s all very well and good to have solid gameplay, but if the environments fail to deliver, the title as a whole suffers. Ghost of Tsushima refuses to let any detail in its world slip past the quality test.
Thankfully, the moment-to-moment gameplay in Ghost of Tsushima is on par with its amazing visuals. This is no more true than when in combat.
Fights feel great and require a decent amount of concentration and timing on the pad to get right. Early on, Ghost of Tsushima gives a combat tutorial that will serve gamers well moving forward, covering the basic striking and defence mechanics as well as some tricks that help give a slight advantage.
As the game goes on and you enter more battles, you’ll only ever have a slight advantage depending on the approach taken to combat and the various upgrades and skill points earned. Making use of the skill tree, constantly upgrading abilities and utilising armour is crucial in Ghost of Tsushima as you’ll take on several different types of enemies.
There are also different battle stance options to be learned and mastered. These stances are critical to giving yourself the best chance against the different enemies, most of which require different stances in order to beat.
As an example – the stone stance is ideal for taking on other swordsmen whereas the water stance is best for Mongols with shields. Light and heavy attacks with the Katana (your main weapon) are used best in variation, plus there is simply nothing more satisfying than an accurate headshot using your upgradable bow.
Combat just feels great, every battle feels exciting, and the audio/visual cues Sucker Punch have implemented into the fight system should keep even the most unreliable of players feeling like they’re always capable of getting the win.
Yes, Ghost of Tsushima is a samurai game and its combat reflects this in large part, but you’d be hard stretched to find more fun in moment to moment fights in any other game.
A Sloggy Story
But despite its brilliant visuals, addicting gameplay in battles, Ghost of Tsushima does have issues in its storytelling. Jin Sakai is pretty one-dimensional in his motives, and as such, the main story feels like a chore at times despite some fun missions that push the plot forward.
But unlike The Last of Us Part II or Red Dead Redemption 2, characters in Ghost of Tsushima just don’t have the conviction that made me care about their fortunes. I just wanted to get to the next mission to enjoy the fantastic combat and see how many Mongol enemies I could stealth until getting caught. What happened to Jin, or his various well-acted sidekicks, didn’t really phase me a whole lot.
As for the antagonists, without giving too much away, they didn’t really do a whole lot for me either and their motivations seemed fairly run of the mill.
All that being said, at the time of writing this review I am approaching on 20-hours of game time and I do sense there is still a lot more to come from the story itself. So far it hasn’t grabbed me, but the brilliance of other areas mentioned in this monologue will keep me coming back for multiple playthroughs I’m sure.
Also, I am fairly new to the samurai genre, so much of the underpinning “swordy stuff” behind the plot could well be over my head.
Sucker Punch Has Found Its Next Big Franchise
Ghost of Tsushima is an utterly beautiful game that features an open world you should explore and take a lot of time with. To not do so defeats the purpose.
On top of its seemingly endless discovery, the battle system provides one of the best and most intense gaming experiences I’ve had that equal everything that was great about the combat systems in games like The Last of Us Part II, Red Dead Redemption 2, and even some of the better Assassins Creed games.
The combat does what it does exceptionally well, and it’s that wider game within the game during these moments that provide the biggest highlight throughout all the well-designed missions.
What Ghost of Tsushima lacks is a great story. Everything else is on par with some of the best title on PS4, and it’s a fitting farewell to a simply outstanding lineup of AAA+ single-player experiences that make this generation a winner for PlayStation.
Ghost of Tsushima might be the last big gun on the PS4, but it’s also one of the best, albeit for a slightly disengaging main plot.
The review code for Ghost of Tsushima was provided by PlayStation NZ/AU. Thanks heaps once again!
It’s been seven long years since Ellie and Joel’s epic journey across America catapulted Naughty Dog to the very top of storytelling in gaming. The brave move into more mature themes paid off in spades with some of the best moment to moment combat and tense presentation gamers had ever experienced.
Frankly, there is little doubt that 2013’s blockbuster was the very best single-player experience ever released on PlayStation.
Following on from the original, Naughty Dog hasn’t just beaten all expectations with The Last of Us Part II (TLOU2), it’s taken the story in a bold, perhaps even divisive direction that consistently surprises throughout its roughly 20-hour campaign.
It’s also a gruesome, uncomfortable and thought-provoking experience that pushes adult themes rarely seen to this degree in videogames. Culminating in one final moment that made me question certain aspects of characters I had grown to love, TLOU2 delivers a narrative that few will expect (spoilers aside).
Ellie Is Older But Further Emotionally Flawed…
Five years have passed since the events of the original game. Ellie, now 19, is the same complicated yet loveable character you remember but you quickly notice the signs of her emotional instability.
Joel is back and carries the weight of his decisions from the end of the last game but remains unchanged in it being the right thing to do.
There is a high degree of tension between Ellie and Joel from the outset, unanswered questions from the ending of the last game linger in Ellie’s mind while Joel remains the typical protector at all costs, refusing to even talk about why he didn’t leave her in that hospital last time round.
Tommy is also back for another stint, standing by his brother Joel and also maintaining a key sense of duty to protect Ellie.
The safe surroundings of Jackson introduce us to several new characters early in the game. Namely, new friend and growing love interest Dina who rides alongside Ellie on a day of patrol in the snow. The connection between the two is noticeable from the outset, presenting a truly innocent fledgling love story that is frequent during the early events in the game.
There is also Jesse, former boyfriend of Dina who in almost every way is one of the most chilled out characters despite the challenging moments he finds himself in along the way.
We then meet Abby. And yes, as it turns out, Abby is that female character fans first saw during the second teaser trailer for the game back in 2017.
Abby’s part in the story emerges very early on, and without giving spoilers away, she becomes an integral part of the overall campaign. Abby’s motivations are complicated and she is far from the typical one-dimensional part of the story to serve Ellie’s wider journey that many may want.
Alongside Abby, there is Owen and several other characters connected to the Washington Liberation Front (WLF), otherwise known as the Wolfs, who form one of the core groups of adversaries Ellie faces throughout TLOU2.
A Bloodbath In Seattle…
Day one in Jackson ends in a shocking moment that sets in motion an uncomfortable story of revenge. Chasing vengeance, you arrive in Seattle which serves as the major backdrop for the game.
Seattle really is a beautiful and detailed world that Naughty Dog wants you to get lost in, gameplay actively encourages exploration in between its incredible combat. My only complaint is the rain… it honestly never stops raining in this city!
There are large open areas with tall grass to hide in, abandoned houses to ransack, moss overgrown skyscrapers, broken highways, rivers with floating bits of old cardboard, and the occasional human remains rotting away in corners with an infected nearby makes for the most vividly grim and detailed world Naughty Dog has ever created.
Resources are everywhere and there are also more collectables in TLOU2, including old magazines and letters which tell informative stories about the lives, interests and challenges of people who lived in this world prior to everything falling apart.
The infected are back roaming the land with new incarnations, all of which more terrifying than the next. Runners, clickers, stalkers, bloaters and the new shambler present infected enemies that are smarter, faster and more of a handful to deal with than the last game.
Like in the original, killing infected in TLOU2 always feels like a painful but necessary experience in order to survive. The gargles, screams and howling when you shoot dead a clicker for instance never failed to send a great deal of both dread and fear down my spine during gameplay.
The third major group of enemies are the Seraphites, known by the WLF as Scars. A religious cult who communicate primarily through whistling, the Seraphites primarily use bows and melee weapons in combat and believe that the terrible events that impact the world of TLOU2 are a result of human sin.
In between the horror, a tactical stealth approach is always required to mastering infected enemies and another real strength of combat in TLOU2 is how the same approach applies to human enemies. As a player, you’ve got to make decisions before getting into combat about the best way of going about it. Taking your time and working down singular enemies through stealth rather than going in all guns blazing is almost always the better approach, and toward the latter end of the game, that also becomes a real but important challenge because many waves of enemies are often lurking just out of site.
Couple that with minimal amounts of ammo at all times, combat in TLOU2 is full of the same tension and tactical thinking that made the original so good and every aspect of this is improved.
Whether it be just a handful of enemies or several groups, I found myself coming out of every moment of combat in TLOU2 feeling that I’d had to call on all my skills as a gamer which provided an immense sense of satisfaction that left me feeling excited and equally terrified about the next encounter.
All this is presented with a minimal UI not too dissimilar from the original, new weapons and crafting abilities, plus stunning its visuals that push the PS4 Pro to its absolute limits with open world environments built into a traditional linear level design that packs some of the best audio in gaming.
The Last of Us Part II Is Not What You Expect… Or Is It?
Many might have the expectation of coming into this game and continuing the adventures of Ellie and Joel. At least, if you’ve managed to avoid any of the leaks at least.
Nothing could be further than the truth. TLOU2 takes itself in a direction that not many will expect.
This is a game about tribalism, love, the inability to let go of hate and revenge going too far.
TLOU2 shows the characters that fans of this franchise have come to love in a different, imperfect, and at times, deeply unlikeable way. Everything is more mature this time round, except for the motivations of some of the key characters.
When I finished the game the night before writing this review, my thoughts and feelings toward Ellie, Joel and all the other characters had changed so much from when I first started that a few of them were barely recognizable.
I totally got why Ellie, as an example, is the vengeful 19-year old she is, I just questioned her ability to see past it at any moment for the greater good of those around her. Ellie is incapable of listening to reason for a lot of this game, and as you’re forced to take her through that journey, you’ll often wonder what she expects to get out of it all.
I sense that this was a very deliberate tactic by the storytellers at Naughty Dog. Back in the day, game director Neil Druckmman was very clear that TLOU2 acts as the second part, not altogether a sequel, and I know why now.
TLOU2 is an experience that feels like the second part of its original. Within that is the unexpected. Is this person really who I thought they were? Is the group I am fighting alongside capable of any empathy? Are the enemies in our way truly all bad and worthy of the slaughter?
Those were just some of the questions I had myself when playing through, and not all of them were answered by the end either.
Simply put, TLOU2 is all about tension and different gamers will react differently to the events taking place when they finally get their hands on it. It should be a game that is talked about, it’s graphic and deliberate violence coupled with a primarily female cast will surely divide opinion about the bigger messages behind the story.
What cannot be denied is that TLOU2 wraps all this up in an utterly fantastic gaming experience that can, and should, be played in a multitude of different ways. By far the best PS4 exclusive, TLOU2 is a memorable and uncomfortable adventure that you simply must play to understand why it’s so annoyingly good.
Sony revealed what they are calling the DualSense wireless controller which will come paired with each PS5 when the console launches later this year.
The controller is busy to look at it, that’s not altogether a bad thing but certainly, it’s a departure from the traditional simplistic look that Sony have traditionally adopted.
Two colours, black and white, with the same blue lightbar visuals that this time are placed on either side of a largely unchanged touchpad.
Prior to the reveal, some speculated that the next controller could forego the touchpad entirely as it was largely unused by a lot of developers on the PS4. Sony has decided to stick with it, and in all honesty, it’s probably the aspect of the new pad that remains the same.
Gone are the colours of the four facing symbols, they’re now clear white/grey and the same for the D-Pad which has a slight, albeit cheaper looking design feel.
The back triggers are where it gets really interesting this time around. The R2 and L2 triggers are both adaptable and will be programmed to work differently with different games, something Sony says will make gamers more immersed in what they’re playing, using the example of the tension felt when drawing a bow to shoot an arrow.
The haptic feedback exceeds just the triggers and takes on the whole controller, providing sensations the gamer can feel in their hands, Sony using the example of the slow grittiness felt when driving a car through the mud.
Form factor and size-wise, whilst they might say it’s designed to feel less bulky in the hands, first impressions are that the controller will be the direct opposite, a big plastic and surely heavier form factor from Sony this time around.
The share button is now called the ‘create’ button and the controller also features a built-in microphone, USB-C port for charging and a slight rework of the analogue sticks.
Is the DualSense Controller Needlessly Radical In Design?
The Dualshock 4 Back Button Attachment adds a little more functionality to the PS4 controller and the wider gaming experience, but it doesn’t do much for accessibility.
Before we begin this review – two quick disclaimers.
I am a disabled gamer and I have a muscle-wasting condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. As you’ll see in the video embedded to this review, to say my hands are quirky would be an understatement.
With this in mind, I reached out to my friends at Sony to see if I could review the Dualshock 4 Back Button Attachment because I wanted to see if it will allow physically disabled gamers, like me, to better access gaming. They kindly agreed and shipped the product to my front door.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the review.
Almost from the get-go, you realize that the back button was not designed with disabled gamers in mind. The attachment is fiddly and tight when trying to connect and it took me several attempts to even get the connectors lined up correctly.
To connect, you need to hold down the latch (either with your thumb or another finger) in order to connect the attachment via the microphone in and extension ports. Once lined up, a firm push is required, using both hands, before the attachment clicks into place.
Whilst it is hard to judge exactly, as different people have varying levels of function in their hands and fingers, I would guess that many disabled gamers won’t have much independence when it comes to actually getting the back button connected and working.
Once connected, for me anyway, I noticed the controller was that much heavier in the hand. Not a lot heavier, but certainly noticeable.
But what of the gaming experience? I played the likes of Fortnite, Apex Legends, Project Cars 2, FIFA 19, and Crash Team Racing all at varying lengths during my time with the back-button attachment.
The tact-tile buttons are an easy press but don’t have much in terms of height, making it difficult for those who may not have good extension in either the ring or middle finger. What’s good about the attachment is that you can program it to map whichever button on the existing Dualshock 4 controller that you’d like, including the often-difficult press of the analogue sticks for parts of gameplay like sprinting or melee.
Using the back button for shooting and aiming in games like Fortnite or Destiny 2 will feel foreign at first but quickly became quite natural, however, the issue again is that this is dependent on the variable functionality in the hands of disabled gamers.
For shooters especially, many disabled gamers are already struggling to keep up the pace of gameplay.
From a purely accessible standpoint, the overarching impression of this nifty addition to the PS4 controller is that it could be worth it for disabled gamers, but the risk of investment is high, because they’re not going to be able to discover that it can even come close to working for them until they’ve paid $70 ($30USD).
Yes, the back-button attachment may be just what they need to have a more level playing field using the controller, but for others, it could also be just the beginning of what they need and the entry to gaming may still be high and this attachment doesn’t address much of the issue.
Sony is already behind Microsoft in terms of developing hardware that is accessible to disabled gamers. They had an opportunity to catch up if a little more thought had been put into what is still a large portion of an ever-growing gaming market.
For me, the setup of it was all but too hard to do independently and I know it will be for many of my disabled gamer friends. That will immediately turn many off because what disabled gamers want more than anything is independence in their gaming.
Sadly, the entry point (in terms of connection) will already put up too barriers for many disabled gamers.