Vodafone To Offer Limited Number Of PS5 Consoles At Launch

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.

Revealed PS5 Controller Signals Sony’s Clear Attempt To Diversify

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?

Sony themselves say that the DualSense represents the most radical departure from previous controllers in the PlayStation stable. They aren’t wrong, and whilst this isn’t close to the worst moments in product reveals by Sony, there is a sense of 2005 about all of this.

Remember the infamous boomerang controller originally slated for the PS3 way back when?

In terms of simplicity on the eye, Xbox surely takes the win on the controller battle heading into the next generation.

In contrast, the DualSense looks needlessly radical and points to just as striking a console design when, for the first time, it’s likely that Sony goes with a largely white look for the PS5 box.

If nothing else, what Sony revealed today signals that they’re serious about making all aspects of their new console feel, and look, like a big leap from the current into the future.

Whether that means a controller that will feel good in the hands, and develop games for, remains an interesting scenario still to play out.

Dualshock 4 Back Button Attachment Review: Not Really Accessible For Disabled Gamers

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.

MY RATING: 5/10

Death Stranding Review: A Middle Finger To Convention

Death Stranding won’t be a PlayStation blockbuster for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, none of that really matters in what turns out to be an experience like few others in gaming today. 

Death Stranding is one of the most extraordinary games I’ve ever played. It’s also one of the more slow-paced, repetitive and lifeless gaming experiences I’ve experienced.

From the very get-go, Death Stranding feels and plays out completely different from what you’d want and expect from a modern-day videogame.

I had no idea what was going on or why, but there was something oddly freeing about having a massively open and incredibly lifeless world to step into. On the long treks and delivery missions, I had time to think and ask myself what the game is about. Once I got to my destination and connected the region to something close to a civilization, I felt like I had done something truly good and worthwhile.

Whilst it is far more than a simple trekking simulator, what Hideo Kojima has developed is a game that will divide the opinion of gamers unlike no other in this generation.

Some will love Death Stranding and will call it the breath of fresh air that gaming so desperately needs, whilst others will see Death Stranding as a product of boredom and monotony.

After more than 20 hours spent traversing the world, the meaning behind why you take Sam Bridges on this journey appears to be all about what amounts to doing something for your fellow man or woman. Your job is to deliver cargo, medical supplies and other important equipment across a broken, bare and empty world.

Then, once you get to the various destinations, connect them up to what’s called the Chiral Network to get that area back online.

The world you traverse is the UCA (loosely based on the USA) which has been left utterly decimated in the aftermath of a Death Stranding, causing creatures called “Beached Things” or BT’s to form some sort of realm between life and death. The game helps you discover what is behind this phenomenon, but players can’t simply fight these creatures as Death Stranding really forces an approach of working around rather than forcing the issue.

Most encounters with BTs result in you walking slowly, holding breath (the closer you get to a BT the more it hears your breath) and gently getting by a potentially dangerous encounter.

If you do trigger a BT, the ground turns to tar and you are forced to fight your way free before the demons wrap themselves around you and pull you down. Fail to do this, you’ll enter a “fight” of sorts with a single BT creature that is much bigger and obvious than the ghost-like figures that can be found in the first instance, and all you’ve got to do is kill it with a grenade to complete the challenge.

Once escaped, the tar disappears and you’re back on the trek again towards the delivery destination seemingly unharmed. I wish I could tell you what happens if you were to lose a battle with a BT, but after 20+ hours, the challenge in Death Stranding has been next to non-existent and I haven’t died a single time.

With me so far? It is all classic Kojima in so many ways, half the time it’s just flat out weird and all these moments of something close to combat all seem to be placed in the game for games sake, all in an aid to somehow further toward the story that is being told in cutscenes by some absolutely brilliant voice acting by the various stars involved.

Norman Reedus Heads A List Of Hit n Miss Characters & Story Telling

Played by Norman Reedus (the dude from Walking Dead), the character of Sam Bridges is one of the more dull protagonists Sony has ever had in its AAA PlayStation list of titles.

Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, Joel from The Last of Us and even Kratos in God of War seem to be far livelier and engaging than the experiences I’ve had with Sam so far.

Even the deeply emotional states Sam gets into (who could forget the first time we saw those tears dripping down his face in time fall) seem unexplained, forced and like the experience with the BT’s, just something Kojima and his team decided to throw into the mix.

The adorable baby strapped to Sam’s chest BB is connected to the BTs in some way and the story progresses forward to answer those questions. Fragile, a woman voiced by Léa Seydoux starts out as something of an unknown but quickly progressed into a character I found myself deeply caring about. You’ve also got the main villain Higgs (voiced by Troy Baker) and the annoyingly mysterious Die-Hardman (voiced by Tommie Earl Jenkins) just to name some of the many characters that play big parts in the game.

For the purposes of trying to not spoil it for you, the Death Stranding story is engaging, annoying, mysterious and worth seeing through to the end it seems. Classic Kojima again, you’ve got to be really concentrating for any of it to make sense.

Death Stranding Challenges The Status Quo

Yet, for all its flaws (and there are many in terms of challenge and story design), Death Stranding remains a game that attempts to hit on a deeper message and that’s where the strength and controversy of it sits.

How many have the patience to find out why Death Stranding is the enigma it is remains to be seen, and that’s why reviewing this game is difficult.

The aim of the mission structure is all about going at it alone, to help out an effort that is much wider than yourself. Some of the delivery missions, like the one where you’ve got to deliver a pizza, seem so basic that it’s understandable why as the game progresses many will lose patience.

But perhaps that’s what Kojima and his team wanted to challenge gamers on? Maybe gaming isn’t all about instant gratification, maybe gaming can deliver these sorts of Atypical experiences.

In an age where FPS, RPG and games come out all the time, where Battle Royale kings like Fortnite and Apex pit everyone against everyone else, what Death Stranding does is take a step back from the action, the competitiveness and the creativity to deliver a truly different experience.

In Death Stranding, players are all but alone in a massive open world that is on such a scale of emptiness, it makes even the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 look busy and full of life. How gamers react to that will differ, how they feel about being a deliveryman and little else will divide opinion.

What will also divide opinion is the message this game attempts to send. The importance of coming together and doing something to help a cause bigger than yourself, perhaps even one that doesn’t make sense or benefit you in any obvious way.

Unless this game takes a drastic turn from its formula in the next 10-20 hours, I reflect on my experiences in it with a lot of thanks.

Death Stranding is different and un-apologetic about every aspect of its gameplay, design and storytelling. It’s a game you’ll either get something out of or curse the day you ever spent the time playing.

And yet, Death Stranding really attempts to challenge gamers to find a middle ground.

MY RATING: 7/10  

Rockstar Games: A studio like no other

Red Dead Redemption 2 promises to be the best title of 2017 for gamers, but this certainly won’t be anything new for Rockstar Games.

Some of my all-time classic gaming moments have been from games made by this studio. Rockstar Games simply aren’t afraid to ‘push the boundaries’ and have always released games that have stirred up some kind of controversy.  Continue reading Rockstar Games: A studio like no other

Xbox Scorpio is already beating PS4 Pro

Microsoft Scorpio is an impressive system, but could it be the next-gen console it has the timing to be?

We are in the middle of a big change to the console gaming space, and it is Sony that has suddenly become the big loser. With the big push toward 4K gaming, both Sony and Microsoft are releasing ‘more powerful’ versions of the PS4 and Xbox One.

Starting with the PS4 Pro, Sony will be the first to drop their upgrade this November, and yes, it will be more expensive than the existing consoles currently on the market. Continue reading Xbox Scorpio is already beating PS4 Pro

PlayStation Pro: Is it worth it?

In a conference that didn’t provide any ‘wow’ factor, Sony finally revealed their newer, and more powerful PlayStation.

Officially named the PlayStation Pro, the more powerful version of the PS4 will be available in New Zealand from November 10th – at a stiff price of $649.95.

It will release just a month after the PlayStation VR and will allow Virtual Reality to run smoother thanks to its upgraded capabilities.  Continue reading PlayStation Pro: Is it worth it?

Lizard Squad ruins gamers Christmas ritual

A group of hackers going by the name of Lizard Squad managed to ruin gaming fun over Christmas after taking down both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live services for several hours.

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The group of hackers who have since stopped cyber attacking Microsoft and Sony.

Much online connectivity remains down at the time of this writing.

Lizard Squad explained that the reason for their hack was not only for a few laughs, but also to show the gaming public how unable both Sony and Microsoft in particular are in their online gaming network service and security.

Lizard Squad claim the hack is to force Sony and Microsoft to improve their security.

Internet billionaire Kim Dotcom offered Lizard Squad free lifetime memberships to controversial Mega Upload as part of negotiations to restore online functionality to gamers, and while Lizard Squad claim to have stopped their attacks, many gamers particularly in European and Oceania regions are still unable to play online at all.

As of 10pm this evening no online functionality for PS4 is active.

For gamers this Christmas, the hack by Lizard Squad is both untimely and irritating. Hot selling games like The Crew are now unplayable until the networks are restored.

Does The Cricket Game We’ve Been Waiting For Arrive Tomorrow?

I think its been the same with every cricket game that has ever released. I’ve always gotten excited, and while the possibility that Don Bradman Cricket 14 will be just as big a disappointment as any of those past titles which ALL failed, I have been VERY impressed with what I’ve read and seen from the game.

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.31.03 PM

It was meant to be out in November, so now that we have reached April, you’d have to think that Big Ant Studios had big reasons to delay the game. Trickstar absolutely flopped with Ashes 13, in fact the game was removed from sale altogether because it was so bad. Reviewers called it the worst game ever made, so Big Ant Studios now find themselves in both a good and bad position to be in heading into tomorrow’s launch of Don Bradman Cricket 14. With all the positive press the game has been getting, Big Ant will make big sales when they launch, but due to the history of poor and extremely disappointing cricket games the market has thrown out in the past, no matter how good Don Bradman Cricket 14 is, the public will always be quite skeptical and will judge it harshly in most cases.

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.30.15 PM Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 9.32.22 PM

When I really stop and think about it, the only cricket games that were any good were Shane Warne Cricket 99 (PS1), Cricket 2002 (PS2), and EA Cricket 07 (PS2).

It is high time a cricket game that is challenging, realistic, and a long term success was put into the hands of a niche audience that’s been crying out for something special which everything points towards Don Bradman Cricket 14 being.

What excites me is how much Don Bradman Cricket 14 has going for it. Graphically it looks good, not great, but the level of dedication that has gone into the representation of cricket realism has got me interested. Don Bradman Cricket 14 LOOKS like the game that captures the essence of cricket better than any other.

A career mode for the first time ever, the Cricket Academy allowing for downloads of all official players and kits from nearly every international, domestic, and best of teams from around the world, and bowling/batting gameplay that hasn’t been used in previous versions of cricket in games, Don Bradman Cricket does look seriously impressive. I am excited that this time there is no pitch marker, no HUD, and a far greater challenge on both batting and bowling than previous titles. Games like Rugby League Live were serious wins for Big Ant, sure they weren’t perfect, but they were enjoyable for the most part, can the same be done with the studios first entry in cricket?

Yes I think it can.

Sure, Don Bradman Cricket 14 could be one almighty disappointment when it releases tomorrow, but I think that this game has such a better chance of being successful based on what has been shown and talked about so far.

You can pick up Don Bradman Cricket 14 from tomorrow at a RRP between $80 and $100 in New Zealand.

Regards,

Mike