Categories
Uncategorized

Jet Set Radio Future – Retro Game Review (Microsoft Xbox – 2002)

By Abdul Hussain

Platform Used: PC (via the CXBX-Reloaded emulator), with the following hardware specifications:

  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700k
  • GPU: nVidia GeForce GTX1070
  • RAM: 32GB

Jet Set Radio Future is the sequel to the Jet Set Radio game on Sega’s last ever mainstream competitive gaming system, the Sega Dreamcast, in which you play as a group of graffiti-spraying characters from a group called “the GGs”, whereby you skate, spray, and grind your way against a megacorporation that oppresses people and engages in surveillance and so on and so forth, whilst dealing with rival groups in the process.

To conclude the introduction, and the basic plot: the plot is not exactly spectacular, and how the plot unfolds from a story-telling perspective is functional, but again, not really thrilling or attention-grabbing to the point whereby the story is merely a secondary tool in the game as a whole, therefore almost being more in line with a classic Nintendo or Sega mascot title than a story-first game title like Deus Ex, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, especially if the gaming elements is fantastic to the point whereby a game is replayable from an entertainment perspective (id est: replaying the whole game, from start to finish) rather than a content perspective (id est: a game having several different endings, or a game having collectibles in awkward gaming locations, et cetera).

Game Controls, Game Progression, Game Design, Gameplay, and Game Music

The game controls very similarly to its Sega Dreamcast predecessor, with the Left thumbstick dedicated to character movement, with the camera controls largely being automatic, with the Left trigger on the Microsoft Xbox controller resetting the camera position, but what this game has that its predecessor does not, is the ability to use the Right thumbstick to look around from a first-person perspective, and the ability to just press the Right trigger button to spray graffiti depending on where the game wants you to do so, whereas in the original Jet Set Radio game, you are forced to push the thumbstick in specified directions whenever you graffiti-tag a location, which does take a lot of time. The reason for these changes made in Jet Set Radio Future, alongside the omission of a stage completion clock in Jet Set Radio Future (the original Jet Set Radio had the time limit setup) is largely to accommodate for the game’s focus on navigation, exploration, and graffiti-tag-based combat, making it a more fast-paced game compared to its predecessor, and speaking of “fast-paced”, Jet Set Radio (Sega Dreamcast) runs at 30 frames per second, whereas Jet Set Radio Future bumps this framerate count up to 60FPS, making this game more fluid than its predecessor, though this was most likely made possible due to Microsoft Xbox’s hardware, which is an x86 CPU-based PC with some semi-customized components, beating its competitors in the hardware department, though in typical Xbox fashion, it did not get first place in terms of hardware units sold.

What is unfortunately a missed opportunity is the fact that the Right thumbstick was not fully utilized, whereby it would serve as a camera control in third-person mode, whenever you are browsing the world in-game, though to be fair, not a lot of games at, or around the time of this game’s release made use of the “left stick = character control, right stick = camera control in all circumstances” setup.

Do you see a timer on this screenshot of the game? I don’t, because this game doesn’t have a timer, unlike the original Jet Set Radio (known as ‘Jet Grind Radio’ in the USA) game
Graffiti-spraying efforts are relegated to just tapping the right trigger button on the Microsoft Xbox controller, with the game telling you where to spray. Simple huh?

Another downside that this game has in terms of gaming basics, is the god-awful map that can confuse first-time players of this game, as it does not clearly show the gamer as to exactly where the item/game locations are, leading to utter confusion in certain situations. To remedy this, if a remake was to ever be made, a two-dimensional map would be ideal with thorough detailing in terms of item/location heights.

This game’s map system could do with a overhaul if you ask me. It’s alright in some cases, but for tough-to-navigate areas, it can be really confusing

Now, pushing comparisons to its predecessor, and its minor downsides to one side, this game excels in the gameplay department, ranging from its fluid, snappy navigational controls in terms of skating and grinding up poles and rails, to spraying graffiti and running around the game world, and speaking of the game world, while the game has moderately sized maps that encourage exploration, they are also challenging to navigate to, albeit in a mostly fun way, with certain occasions whereby it can feel more frustrating than entertaining in the process.

Grind, grind, grind, baby!

Game progression-wise, the game can be finished in around 12-14 hours for the basic campaign, which makes the game not outstay its welcome and is reasonable, though completionists will spend more time to grab every single collectible item there is. This game can be finished in a less than a week if the game sessions are split into 4-hour chunks.

Music-wise, the game music, composed by Hideki Naganuma, and others, have done a stellar job with regards to making the music fit in with the themes of the game, and the soundtrack is even great to listen to outside the videogame, which is not always the case when it comes to videogame music.

Technological Aspects of the Game: Graphics and Sound

Graphically, much like its predecessor, the game has a cartoon/anime-like vibe to it, thanks to its art design and cel-shaded graphics, which has aged better than games that go for a “realistic” look, and also helps with framerate, as usually, cel-shaded graphics are not as technologically challenging as realistic-looking graphics that strive for an extreme high polygon count and texture quality. Basically, the cel-shaded graphics are pleasant to the eye, has aged well, and is easy to render, all of which are great, especially when the game never drops a single frame throughout the campaign, but however, there is no native wide-screen support, though older games, like Jet Set Radio Future, and some others, did not always have this as standard, which is understandable.

Sound-wise, the game has limited audio options, but what this game does offer, is functional. Sound effects, are functional, the dialog audio is functional, and the music quality is good too, especially when this game is under two gigabytes in size, with all of the files extracted for use with an emulator, like the CXBX-Reloaded emulator that I have used to play this game from start to finish.

Closing Statements

What do I have to say about this game? The game: great, the soundtrack: awesome, the game world: nice, audio quality: functional, especially when the game is small in size, the graphics: timeless, and fluid, with no frames noticeably dropped, and the plot: secondary, and okay, but who cares when you can skate up poles, skate across walls, and spray graffiti like there is no tomorrow, and did I mention that I actually enjoyed my playthrough of this game? No? Well then, I have just mentioned that I actually enjoyed the game from start to finish, especially when I first played the game all the way back in 2002 on the original Microsoft Xbox. Sadly though, while its predecessor has gotten a remastered release on the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC, this game is seemingly forever consigned to merely being a Microsoft Xbox-exclusive, and is so sorely underrated and undervalued that this game did not sell particularly well when it was released, though nowadays, this game still has a cult following, and some folks wanted to be able to play this game in the modern day. Fortunately, this game is playable on the CXBX-Reloaded emulator from start to finish now, so special thanks to Luke Usher et al for making this become a reality, though improvements to the emulator still need to be made so that it does not become “just a JSRF launcher”, to use Luke Usher’s words, but that said, Microsoft Xbox emulation has been one of gaming’s biggest struggles in the console emulation department sadly, so the developers behind the CXBX-Reloaded emulator have their work cut out as a result.

Categories
Uncategorized

Ghostrunner Game Review (PC (Microsoft Windows – Steam, Epic Game Store and GOG), Sony PlayStation 4 & 5, Microsoft Xbox One/Series S/Series X, Nintendo Switch)

By Abdul Hussain

Ghostrunner Homepage (Where to Buy): https://ghostrunnergame.com/

Platform Tested: PC, with the following hardware specifications:

  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700k
  • GPU: nVidia Geforce GTX1070
  • RAM: 32GB

To start off, what is Ghostrunner? It is a parkour-themed action-adventure game, in which you run around, you jump and you slash your way to the end with a badass sword. However, in typical dystopian cyberpunk fashion, you have to defeat evil in the form of fighting your way to the main enemy called The Keymaster, after you, the Ghostrunner faces her, loses his arm in the process, and survives a heavy fall, because oppression, treating its citizens in a fictional place called Dharma City, like utter crap, while the bigwigs live a life of luxury in a dystopian cyberpunk world, which is largely what the story consists of.

Game Progression, Game Features, and Gameplay

The gameplay is largely fluent in terms of traversing in the game world, with the parkour elements being very fluid without the fear of losing control when wall-running, unlike in Mirror’s Edge and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, whereby the protagonist, Faith Connors, has the ability to wall-run, but she slides downwards and can only wall-run for a limited time without sliding downwards and losing grip. In Ghostrunner though, this is not the case, and you can therefore run from one end of the wall to another without the fear of even losing grip, which simplifies gameplay from a parkour perspective.

The jumping mechanics is also robust, and without major flaws, and in this game, you can even strafe mid-jump to dodge fire by holding down the Shift key on the keyboard while mid-air, and then moving left or right with the A and D keys respectively, and the melee combat is also impactful and fluid, and gives the gamer that tactile-like feeling of satisfaction when slashing enemies, and the combat is minimal as the game design is more biased towards the parkour aspects of the game, rather than the combat, but the combat is effective.

On the other hand, presumably due to the game reportedly having a ridiculously short completion time and in an effort to lengthen the game time as a result, the enemies have the ability to one-hit kill you and some enemies are shielded as well. The short game time may leave gamers with significant amounts of leisure time wanting more, but for leisure time-deprived gamers, this comes as a benefit, and this game may be ideal for speed-runners and could be used as an ideal speed-running game, if one is willing to do so.

The stage layout is also brilliant, albeit a little linear at times, with you having to sling your way from point to point, almost like Spider-Man, and jump around like there is no tomorrow. There are times whereby the game stages can be a little problematic to navigate, but that is largely due to skill limitations of the player (I am admittedly not a great gamer, and have died 100+ times in certain stages), though on the other hand, there are stage design elements that are also navigationally thought-provoking, and complex, like the Cybervoid stages, and there are puzzles to solve. However, it is also easy to jump past your required platforms to the point whereby you will fall to your death almost immediately as the character you control can easily overshoot a target platform with a fast boost past the intended platform.

Did I say that the stage layout is brilliant, although a little linear at times? Yes I did, and also, I did mention that the game can be really challenging, and the time/death count in the bottom-right corner of the screenshot here says a lot.
What the hell is this place?

As for character gameplay features, you can even get the chance to customize certain features that enhance certain aspects of the game, and in this game, it is presented in the form of a Tetris-like two-dimensional puzzle, with different pieces focusing on different game features/feature categories, like enhancing your Sensory Boost (slowing down to help with reacting to enemies), Blink (another slowdown feature to help attack several enemies in sight), Tempest (a kinetic pushback effect that kills enemies) and so on.

This game allows you to upgrade your character’s features like as if you’re playing Tetris

Technological Aspects of the Game: Graphics, Sound and Music, and Game Controls

The one main issue that this very game when it comes to the technological aspects of the game is the fact that this game tends to crash after the very end of every chapter, on version 0.30655.307 of the game, whereby the game presents you with a very unhelpful “Fatal error” popup. Fortunately, you get to continue where the game has crashed, and continue onto the next stage, although it is annoying when this happens literally after every stage.

“Fatal error!”? “Great quality control there”, I sarcastically remarked

Thankfully though, updated versions of this game (0.30660.408a, as of 8th November 2020) fixes this very crash, and now you are presented with chapter completion statistics instead of that dreaded “Fatal error!” popup window that mentions nothing other than a generic error message, indicating that a game has crashed.

This is what should happen after the end of a stage, which is now the case with updated versions of the game

However, while there aren’t persistent bugs that exist now, one bug I have managed to run into that I fortunately could not reproduce is when I have managed to fall through the game world in a location, whereby I start traversing further into the city and encountering a ninja-like enemy for the first time.

Come at me bro!
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?
Uh-oh!
Did I just start up the Sony PlayStation 2 like it’s 2000 once again?

After listening to the music in-game, which is composed/created by a relatively little-known music artist (when compared to the “mainstream music” realm) Daniel Deluxe, the music suits the cyberpunk themes absolutely nicely and adds to the immersion, thus making the game even more fun to play as a result, especially at times whereby you may not mind getting killed off in the game just to embrace the musical efforts on offer here.

Bandcamp URL for the Ghostrunner OST by Daniel Deluxe: https://danieldeluxe.bandcamp.com/album/ghostrunner-original-soundtrack

As of the time of writing (8th November 2020), two of my favourite tracks from the game are “Dharma”, and “Striker”, as to me, they’re the most listenable tracks outside the game, whilst immersing you into the game world and its dystopic themes without playing the game, and a good videogame soundtrack must have at least a few independently listenable tracks on board, in my opinion.

As for the sound aspects of the game, the sound effects in navigational situations are functional, but the combat sound effects are vicious, brutal, and crisp, as to be expected for such situations in a videogame. Dialogue is also audible, and competent in terms of acting capabilities, with the voice actors doing a decent job in terms of their respective roles, though it’s just a videogame that focuses on gameplay first, with a mid-range price tag to boot, and not exactly a full-price title that focuses solely on story, like a Sony PlayStation “filmic” exclusive title, or a Square Enix travesty.

Game controls in this game are fantastic with a keyboard and mouse, to the point that I have decided to stay with this setup throughout the campaign, and I honestly cannot find any faults with this input setup at all. The PC version of the game also has support for controllers, but unfortunately, as of the time of writing (8th November 2020), I have yet to play the game with a controller. Fortunately though, this game, I can say, does not exacerbate repetitive strain injury/carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms/issues, unlike in Genshin Impact, whereby you had to constantly press the Circle/B button just to perform basic attacks continuously on bothersome enemies.

PC-Specific Section: Graphics/Sound/Control Options

This game has most of the basic options that one would expect in a PC game, or a multiplatform game that is on PC, which is largely good news. Framerate options are diverse, texture/shadow/anti-aliasing options are also wide and present as well. Framebuffer resolution/scaling options are also present, which can help with maintaining higher framerates without crudely changing output resolution settings. However, screen options are largely limited to “Fullscreen window” and “windowed mode”, with no dedicated, proper full-screen mode, which may upset some PC gamers, but other than that, the graphics settings options that are available are adequate and is very scalable to accommodate for PC gamers who are willing to lower certain settings rather than just lower the overall graphical settings to make a game playable on a more primitive PC system.

Framerate options are present, and diverse, which is very good here.
The same cannot be said for the Window/Screen Coverage settings options here sadly, with “Borderless Window” and “Windowed Mode” being the only 2 options on offer.

Sound options are largely basic, with only 4 sliders for “Master volume”, “music volume”, “sound effects volume”, and “dialogs volume”. It’s the standard in sound settings now, not that it is great, as I have mentioned before in this article, especially when this game has the same sound setting sliders/options as Genshin Impact.

Sound options? Yeah, just 4 sliders, because sod extensive customization options in the audio department, though to be fair, this is sadly the standard here.

Control options are also similarly customizable as the PC version Genshin Impact, whereby key bindings can be swapped around, and sensitivity settings can be adjusted. While gamepad button assignments can be changed, unfortunately, this is restricted to a bunch of presets provided by the game itself, which may also not please certain gamers, especially those who may have medical reasons for disliking the presets being provided here.

Well, at least you can configure mouse and controller sensitivity here, alongside choosing your own keyboard and mouse bindings
Don’t like the default binding options? No problem, change it yourself, because you can.
Hope you like gamepad presets, because if you don’t, then you are sadly out of luck.

In terms of game performance, the game largely fluctuates from ~40FPS to ~60FPS with the current PC setup in every stage that I have played in the game, and the game is well-optimized, though with PC systems that have 4-year-old-and-older parts, do not expect this game to run at 30FPS at maximum settings, as this game is made at a time whereby the Sony PlayStation 5, the Microsoft Xbox Series S/X, and new hardware from AMD and nVidia, like the RTX 3070, and Intel are either on the way, or have been released.

Closing Statements

This game has largely been a fun experience, and has a great soundtrack to boot. Gameplay is the main focus of this game and it shows, with its tight controls, impactful combat, and thrilling and dark, futuristic game world. However, the notable setbacks are that the game has a short campaign which has been padded out by excruciatingly difficult sections that may frustrate some to rage-fit-inducing extremes although gamers with a lack of free time can play this game without worrying about whether such gamers can finish a game off, and the voice-acting and story is something that is not frankly spectacular.

As of the time of writing (8th November 2020), the game costs US$29.99 or UK£24.99, which is justifiable for the minimal, yet wholly fun content that this game offers, though some may find that even the original retail price may be too steep for a single-player game that has less than 10 hours’ worth of content.

As a result, I would suggest playing this game if you can get a chance to do so, especially on a weekend, whereby this game is short enough to play through in a few sittings across two to three days, though waiting for a lower price may be a wiser option, due to the minimal offering here that can divide opinion in terms of monetary worthiness.

Also, if you are a DRM-conscious person, grabbing the game via GOG.com is by far the best bet, as you can play the game without needing to login to a client to “prove your ownership of the game” – it’s a case of “just download, install, and play” with GOG. However, grabbing the game via Steam may be a more convenient option for most due to the market share Valve has with its Steam marketplace, and most gamers having large Steam catalogues. Epic Game Store, while an option, is not that popular compared to the former two, though it is gaining in popularity and awareness in recent times.

Lastly, as for this game and the consoles that this game is available on, the Sony PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X versions of the game will be available soon, and is available as an upgrade option to said consoles if you have purchased either a Sony PlayStation 4 or Microsoft Xbox One version of the game.

Categories
Uncategorized

Genshin Impact (Android (64-bit devices only), iOS (64-bit devices only), PC, Sony PlayStation 4 – free-to-play, with microtransactions) – Extended First Impressions

By Abdul Hussain

Platforms Tested:

  • Android OS: Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S (codename: Curtana), Android 10 (MIUI 11)
  • Android OS: Xiaomi Redmi Note 3: Special Edition (codename: Kate), Android 10 (custom ROM: ZenX-OS)
  • PC: Microsoft Windows 10, Intel Core i7-6700k, 32GB RAM, nVidia Geforce GTX1070

Progress/Gameplay Status as of the date of the completion of this article:

  • Adventure Rank 32
  • 10 Characters – Lumine, Amber, Kaeya, Lisa, Noelle, Barbara, Fischl, Xiangling, Ningguang, and Sucrose)
  • Approximately 64 Hours of Recorded Gameplay

Nota bene: this game censors “Taiwan”, but not “Hong Kong” in my playthrough, but both of these names have been reportedly censored according to other gamers, causing massive controversy, especially when this game has been made in China, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been overly sensitive when it comes to Taiwan and Hong Kong, as they feel that it goes against their “One China” narrative, while those who are sceptical of the CCP feel that the CCP are being geopolitically aggressive against Taiwan and Hong Kong to the point that it is threatening their sovereignty.

Therefore, how you react to political matters here, and how you deal with this game, going forward, due to this political controversy, is solely up to you, but in the interests of maintaining good journalistic practices, I felt that this needs to be included here.

Notice how “Taiwan” is censored, and that I tried circumventing that with an ‘@’ sign in place of one of the ‘A’ letters, but Hong Kong isn’t censored in this screenshot. Other gamers have reported that both both mentions of Taiwan and Hong Kong are censored though.

Where do I personally start with this very game? A Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild-“inspired” (bordering on outright copy-catting, a la Giana Sisters on the Commodore 64) action RPG from Chinese waifu/otaku-centric game developers, miHoYo, with some elements taken from games like NieR Automata with the floating weapons on the characters’ backs, and a human character artstyle that is, in my opinion, like the rest of the things that I have said earlier, and further into the article, similar to Rooster Teeth’s (originally created by the late Monty Oum) RWBY webseries. Oh, and the game is playable across smart mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets powered by the Google Android operating system, and the Apple iOS operating system (Apple devices only), and on the PC running Microsoft Windows, and bespoke gaming systems like the Sony PlayStation 4, making this game very accessible, especially when one is having a toilet session.

Microtransactions – the not-so-basic rundown

Is there any surprise that with free-to-play games that Genshin Impact would include microtransactions? No, not really, and one shouldn’t be surprised by this. However, in the case of Genshin Impact, the game slowly introduces to you the game mechanics, and the good old staple of free-to-play, repeat monetization games: the Battle Pass system, whereby you are greeted with rewards for busywork-tier tasks that you do, depending on what Battle Pass you have, with those spending zero money in the Battle Pass system, called “The Sojourner’s Battle Pass” getting, naturally, the least rewards for their efforts in the game, and those spending money to get the “Gnostic Hymn” version of the Battle Pass system getting more rewards as a result. Additionally, buying the “Gnostic Chorus” pack gets you the “Gnostic Hymn” Battle Pass with some extra rewards and the ability to skip 10 Battle Pass levels without having to grind, in which this game will extensively force you to do so, which is to grind extensively, if you do not pay for microtransactions, especially in the latter Adventure Ranks whereby it is vital to have higher-levelled characters, artifacts, and weapons, but in typical free-to-play gaming fashion, the game teases you with rewards you could have got if you part ways with your money.

The Battle Pass: a staple of free-to-play games, because shekels, yuan, dollars, and all things repeat monetization.
Want to get more rewards? Cough up some more money for a Battle Pass upgrade
Hope you like doing daily tasks. =P
The Battle Pass also encourages its gamers to try and do some more complex tasks as well.
…but there some tasks that are not easy to do to boost up your Battle Pass level.
Want those shiny weapons? You better upgrade your Battle Pass then, otherwise, you won’t get those weapons, as usual.

In addition to the Battle Pass system, there is a system known as “Wishes”, which allow you to spend in-game microtransactional currency called “Primogems”, or Wish-exclusive gems called “Intertwined Fate” and “Acquaint Fate”, to get a really small chance to win really high-tier characters and weapons that change at varying intervals throughout the game: key words being “really small chance”, as out of the four to six attempts to spend Primogems on these Wishes, except for the “Beginner’s Wish”, which guarantees a character acquisition for the first 10 draws, I only got a bunch of three-star weapons that could have easily been acquired through extensive grinding, and two four-star characters in the game, and those Wishes can set you back around 1500-1600 Primogems, and for 2 Primogems per treasure chest with weapons, artifacts, and ores (for weapon upgrades), 10-20 Primogems per quest on certain occasions, and 1 Primogem for a new game hint (hold down L1, and press Up on the Directional Pad if you’re playing on the Sony PlayStation 4), it is a struggle to even earn them as it is without spending money, let alone spend them on the Wishes system without receiving much in return.

The “Beginners’ Wish”, while guarantees you with Noelle, is available to encourage you to spend more Primogems on other Wishes in my opinion
Good luck getting a character out of these Wishes, or even a very high-tier weapon. My luck here has been mediocre in this regard, with Ningguang and Sucrose being two of the only characters I have acquired through this system, and I did not even spend a penny on this game, but rather, grinded hard to earn enough Primogems to try out this Wish system. My advice: don’t expect much.

Also, if you think the microtransactional currency system stops with Primogems, Intertwined Fate, and Acquaint Fate, then I have got some bad news for you: it doesn’t, and this game throws such systems at you in a manner so overwhelming that you will end up being confused rather than entertained. First off in the crazy list of additional microtransactional currencies, is the Genesis Crystals, which can only be acquired with real money, as seen below

Yep, want Genesis Crystals? Cough up some more money here.

Then, you have Stardust and Starglitter, which is a rare asset to acquire in-game, and is most likely easily acquirable if you spend money, as usual, which in turn, can be spent in the Stardust Exchange and Starglitter Exchange, should you wish to do so, but personally, I would stay away from this as the items on offer in said exchanges are not worth the expenditure in all honesty.

Struggling to keep up with these microtransactional currency systems? If you are, then welcome to my world.

Then, you have Genesis Crystals, which are only acquirable via real-world monetary means, usually through bundles like the one shown in the image below and through the Crystal Top-up section mentioned earlier:

Bundles, bundles, bundles, bundles, bundles…

If you are intending to NOT spend any money on this game, then I would only pay much attention to the Primogems, as that currency system is the most versatile of the lot in terms of game content acquisition, but even then, spending money on this game is a confusing mess as it is due to the numerous systems being presented to the end-user all at one fell swoop, at the expense of the end-user’s mental wellbeing.

With the currency systems fully presented to the best of my ability – yes, I have to say this, as even this is very confusing for me – heck, even Call of Duty: Mobile wasn’t this complicated at all, as it only had two currency systems: one called “Credits”, which can be earned in-game but cannot be used to spend on the more exquisite bundles, and another called “COD Points”, which is used to spend on the flashier bundles and guns, and can only be acquired with real-world currency, there are bundles that are offered in the game which give you in-world items to accelerate game progression at the expense of your wallet getting lighter

“Yay, more bundles; just what I wanted”, I sarcastically remarked.

Game Progression and Story Structure/Pacing – how fast, or slow, one progresses through the game, with, and without, spending money on the game, and how the game story is in terms of storytelling, story concepts/premise, and pacing (no major spoilers).

In the start of the game, you play as one of the two unnamed travellers in the game, canonically named as Lumine (female traveller), and Aether (male traveller), separated by an unnamed antagonist at the very start, only for you to end up having to explore the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild-styled world of Teyvat while trying to find the seven gods and making sure that their curses are removed, their respective regions freed from adversities, and eventually reuniting with your sibling (probably, if the game finishes its development process from a storyline perspective). During your adventures though, you get to meet other characters to aid with your adventures as the story progresses, while having the opportunity to acquire new characters via the methods outlined in the Microtransactions section of this article, like Lisa, who is a librarian, Kaeya, who is a blue-haired weirdo with an eyepatch, because videogames, and Amber, who looks like a freaky mashup of Blake Belladona and Ruby Rose from RWBY, and is apparently a “gliding champion”, and an “outrider”, all of which mentioned here join you early on in the story.

The game’s story largely consists of Japanese-style (not that Genshin Impact is Japanese, as it isn’t, but merely shares some of these traits) role-playing game tropes that are largely generic in nature, ranging from multiple gods, to multiple characters that look like a bunch of wacky misfits, to having extensive amounts of cutscenes and dialogue, all of which, can either be good or bad, depending on the execution of the storytelling, and the story concepts/premise itself, and it also depends on the game player as to how he or she feels about the game’s premise. Unfortunately for me, the game’s story is not exactly its strongest point in terms of execution and concepts, as you have to sit through copious amounts of dialogue and cutscenes to follow what is, to me, a borderline average-at-best story through, and has the aforementioned tropes executed in a similar manner to an average JRPG at best, the extensive dialogue and the cutscenes can become a chore to even sit through, admittedly to a point whereby I ended up listening to radio shows and podcasts uploaded onto Youtube and Spotify whilst playing the game, during said moments, and whilst grinding to get to higher Adventure Ranks. I would be more forgiving for the extensive cutscenes and dialogue if the story was entertaining and thrilling to follow through, like the Metal Gear Solid games.

As for the game progression in terms of start-to-finish gameplay, game progression speed is surprisingly fast to the point that all the initial characters in your roster can reach Level 10 after around 6 hours’ worth of gameplay, though your mileage may vary. However, starting from around Adventure Rank 20, in which Adventure Rank 16 unlocks co-operative play, and earlier ranks unlock Commission Quests which are vital towards game/story  progression, as completing random Commission Quests and claiming the rewards for said quests at the Adventurer’s Guild, which serves as the hub for tracking player progress and reward-claiming service for levelling up, help towards levelling up, and unlocking story chapters via a feature called “Story Keys”, which in turn, is locked behind high Adventure Ranks, with the lowest Adventure Rank being Adventure Rank 32 as of the time of writing (30th October 2020), and when you add all of these convoluted progression features, it adds to the tedium of the very process of wanting to see the whole Genshin Impact story through, especially when doing so at no monetary cost.

This game really loves to slow you down
Complete those Daily Commissions to get Story Keys… while you have to grind excessively to get to the required Adventure Ranks
Here’s the rundown of how that system works, straight from Satan’s mouth

As for this game, and whether it has special events designed to help entice new gamers, and perhaps retain older gamers, especially when using such tactics to play on the “FOMO factor (Fear Of Missing Out)”, yes they do, and they can range from daily login rewards in the form of the “Seize the Day” event, whereby you will be given Primogems, to time-limited character trial/map exploration events whereby you will be rewarded with in-game items that will aid you with character development, in the form of Test Runs (correct as of October 2020) and “Marvellous Merchandise” (correct as of 26th October 2020, which has finished on the 1st November 2020), the latter being whereby one has to roam around Teyvat to find a merchant named Liben (who dons an 1980s’ retro look), while you try to figure out the clues of his whereabouts, in which that changes on a daily basis throughout the event.

In addition to all of this being mentioned, you may also get rewards handed to you for registration, gameplay, reaching levels, et cetera, in the Adventurer’s Handbook, and Achievements, which function almost similarly in terms of what kinds of game tasks they ask you to do, and in the Genshin Impact Mail, whereby you may receive mail from miHoYo that contains rewards ranging from in-game progression/character enhancement items, to, in very rare cases, some in-game characters. Therefore, I must stress that if you want to have a remote chance of relatively reasonably progressing further in the game, I strongly suggest making the most of these monetarily free-of-charge in-game handouts where and when possible, as non-monetary enjoyment is a more grind-laden experience than some free-to-play titles like Call of Duty: Mobile.

Gameplay, Controls, and Game Mechanics

This is where Genshin Impact largely shines, and is thus arguably its strongest point, though this part of the game is sadly not without its flaws either. Character setup, is easy, with having a choice of four characters deployed out into the wild at any one time, and the choice of characters that you want to deploy can be made outside combat scenarios, but not in combat scenarios, whether out in Tevyat, or inside Domains (Genshin Impact’s answer to Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s shrines). Character controls are quite easily adaptible from mobile, touchscreen controls, to tactile, PC/console game input device controls and vice versa, though naturally, tactile input is better than touchscreen input.

As for character control change-overs, this is assigned to either the numerical input buttons on a PC keyboard, for immediacy, or the directional pad on your bespoke game controller of choice, and in cases whereby you need to play with a character in a trial state in a story/critical mission, the L2/LB shoulder button and a face button, like Y/X/B/A or Triangle/Square/X/O. This is effortless, and in good Internet connections (~40-50ms), the game will respond to such change-related inputs immediately, and it works similarly to the character control mechanics in games like Final Fantasy XV, but when your Internet connection exceeds the latency rating of ~120ms and above, the game input/output processes start to lag dramatically, even in solo gameplay sessions.

Regarding the character combat though, character move feedback for melee characters like the Traveller (Lumine/Aether), Kaeya, and Noelle are very satisfying, and are the most enjoyable, while bow-and-arrow characters like Fischl and Amber are fantastic for long-distance attacks, in which the game manages to pull off well. However, the least exciting, but still fun, characters to use are those whereby books/orbs/hands-off approaches are used as the basis for attacks, like Lisa, Sucrose, Ningguang, and Barbara, though Barbara is a massive godsend for health-deprived situations in the game. Combat is very responsive and functional, but changing enemy lock-on is difficult as it is automatically controlled by the game, and therefore, there is no dedicated enemy lock-on controls in the game, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Z-Targeting. It would have been nice if this feature was included in the game so that one can change who to focus on when it comes to attacking enemies in the game, especially for tougher enemies. Another drawback to this game is that the enemies sometimes regenerate automatically to full health while walking away to its “home” positions, even though you are either in the middle of a battle and/or you’re attacking them anyway, making this game very frustrating to play at times, especially when you add to the fact that you will need to constantly press the B/Circle button to attack enemies with basic attacks, which can trigger and/or exacerbate repetitive strain injury symptoms if you do not take proper care. Speaking of health warnings, the PC version of the game presents to you the Photosensitive Epilepsy/Health Warning screen the moment you start up the game, but not the Android OS version of the game surprisingly.

The Health Warning screen – only available on PC, and probably PS4 and iOS, but definitely not on Android.
Combat is fun as a whole, but can be tedious, and thumb-aching at times.

Looking into world navigation controls, you can simply jump, walk, run, sprint (by tapping R1/RB shoulder button, or the Shift key if you are playing the game with a keyboard and mouse), and climb on mountains and ladders. Sprinting and climbing though, uses up the stamina bar, much like in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, in which if that is empty, you cannot climb or sprint until said bar is regenerated by standing or eating food/potions that replenishes stamina.

Run, climb, and stand and look around like as if it’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Making food though is largely similar, albeit more restrictive than, again, Zelda: Breath of the Wild (these comparisons cannot be helped, largely in part due to how eerily similar the two games are). You cannot experiment with putting in ingredients to make up new recipes on the fly, but rather, you have to navigate the world to find written-down recipes, in which you need to read them to learn them, and only then you are able to make the food that you have learned the recipes for, but once you do that, you are then required to “improve your proficiency” rating of the recipes that you have learned, until you have maxed out the proficiency rating for a recipe by perfectly timing the “cooking bar”, in which you will then unlock the ability to auto-cook the recipe, or recipes in question. However, the more sophisticated (see the “star rating” above the food/recipe items) the recipes are, the higher the proficiency requirements are for such recipes.

The whole culinary process, for work-in-progress recipes
The whole culinary process, for perfect proficiency level recipes

Whilst navigating the world, you can grab chests, which will help with earning Adventure Experience Points, which in turn, will help you level up your Adventure Rank, though some of them may require you to do challenges scattered across the world.

Open up a chest to get a bunch of in-game character/weapon enhancement items

Navigational teleporting points are also, unsurprisingly similar to Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) as well, to the point that the game’s similarities cannot easily be ignored as stated earlier, with Statues of the Seven being as functionally equivalent to BotW’s towers in the sense that using them will allow you to unlock sections of the Teyvat map, though the former does not have the height advantage, thus not being able to be used as gliding hotspots as a result, but what it does have is that you need to acquire Anemoculus/Geoculus tokens, which are scattered across the world to upgrade these Statues to higher levels, thus giving you in-game items, upgraded stamina attributes, and Adventure Experience Points, and you can heal and/or resurrect your party members via the “Statue’s Blessing” feature, should you need to do so. There are also shrines in the game itself, but those consist of only treasure chests in which you get in-game character/weapon enhancement items.

A small section of the Teyvat world map, showing where one of the Statues of the Seven is – get to one of those to unlock a section of the Teyvat world map, and heal your party members, and level up your Adventure Rank/Experience Points
The Statue of the Seven Level-Up process, in pictures
The Statue’s Blessing feature allows you to heal up your party members

One of the more unlikable features that this game has is a moon-like collectible item called “Original Resin”, which is shown to you in the top-right corner of the Teyvat map screen, and is used to collect rewards from blue (character enhancement items)/yellow fog (in-game money called “Mora”, used to spend on items like salt, pepper, tomatoes, et cetera)-like blobs called “Ley Line Outcrops”, alongside rewards from certain Domains and certain major/tough enemies scattered across Teyvat.As of the time of writing (30th October 2020), you are assigned with a maximum of 120 Original Resin tokens, and replenish at a rate of 1 Original Resin token per 8 minutes of real-world time, whether you are logged in the game or not. This limit serves to only slow down game progression under the guise of “folks coming in via co-op sessions to steal all your loot”, which can happen and is a valid complaint, but there has been reports that miHoYo may make changes to the way this system works. Co-op sessions have also largely been restricted to Original Resin-requiring/linked activities at the moment as well as of the time of writing (30th October 2020), and thus, I have briefly played the co-op sessions, and while it is fun for a brief while to play with people in Original Resin-based missions, I have decided to stop doing so on a regular basis as a result of the lack of things to do in co-op sessions, perhaps until co-op improvements are made, according to this PC Gamer article.

A Ley Line Outcrop: Blossom of Wealth gives you Mora, the in-game currency that is spent on food, consumables, and crafting items, like Zelda’s Rupees
A Ley Line Outcrop: Blossom of Revelation gives you character level-up items
Tough enemies like Geo Hypostatis gives you a lot of items that help you improve your characters and weapons, and in some cases, help you jump over the Ascension barriers, which serve to slow you down in terms of grinding to progress in the game.
A Domain in this game is similar to Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s shrines in the sense that you have to do challenges and quests, to earn you character/weapon enhancement items
The Original Resin system is a damn nuisance, and only serves to slow you down in terms of doing shrines/Ley Line Outcrop challenges to grab loot
How the Original Resin system works, which generates at 1 token per 8 minutes of idle time.
Want to replenish Original Resin? Spend Primogems (ugh)

The one additional problem with the game, is how in-game conversations/cutscenes work, or rather, how technically problematic they are, as sometimes, the non-player characters do not point out directions when they mention which direction an event is, leaving their arms on the side like as if they are merely standing normally, they don’t actually give out food or non-food items that are not entirely crucial to the story but rather, act like they give out food/non-food items by executing the animation frames of someone giving out items, without rendering the items, and lip-syncing is god-awfully incomplete/broken, whereby the characters’ lips are not moving but they somehow are verbally producing lines and lines of dialogue like a 20th Century pullstring toy with a loudspeaker shoved up one’s rectum, and speaking of dialogue, English voiceacting is not spectacular, with some lines from NPCs being poorly “acted out”, sounding wooden, and devoid of emotion, though there has been reports that Far Eastern voice acting efforts are better than the English voice acting efforts, though I have yet to try this out myself as of the time of writing (30th October 2020)

The More Technical Aspects of the Game – game saves, graphics and graphical configurations, technological struggles, installation methods, et cetera

Firstly, game saves: you get cross-platform save-sharing, which is convenient and beneficial, but that sadly means that you will not be able to save your game locally, complete with local game save files as a backup. Also, while you can choose servers geographically nearest to you, your game saves cannot be shared across several geographical servers, so please pay attention to the box that mentions the continents, as that is the “Server Choice” option, and please choose wisely based on how geographically near you are to miHoYo’s server choices, as you cannot change your server choices later, unless you want to start afresh.

The Start screen – there are 4 server choices in the game, one of which is “Europe” (see the blue-grey box)
All of the server options available here, but do note that saves are not transferred when you change servers.

Speaking of logins and server choices, you can login to the game via your Facebook, Twitter or miHoYo account, as this is used to store your game progress, and if creating several accounts is not your thing, you can choose either of those options, depending on your personal preference.

As for Android installation, the game is accessible via the Google Play Store, without any need to jump through convoluted hoops, like sideloading APKs in normal circumstances, and can be played once you install the game via the Google Play Store, AND you start up the game, and perform an in-game installation process which takes up approximately 7 gigabytes of data storage space.

The PC version however, requires you to install a frontend launcher, and then you need to install the game via the frontend launcher, which takes up around 15 gigabytes of data storage space. However, installing the game on PC leads to you installing miHoYo’s anti-cheat kernel system, which is deemed to be a contentious issue in terms of PC operating system security. Another game that has caused controversy due to the same issue is Doom Eternal, developed by Id Software, which has since been removed due to a barrage of player complaints that came flooding in.

Genshin Impact storage space consumption on a Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S running MIUI 11 (Android 10)
Genshin Impact storage space consumption on a Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 running Zen-X OS (Android 10)
Genshin Impact storage space consumption on a PC running Microsoft Windows 10

As for the graphics settings in the Android version of the game, the graphics setting options are quite scalable, with the ability to change framerate settings, texture settings, motion blur, shadow quality, and more, though framerate settings are unfortunately quite limited, with the only two options being 30FPS (choppy, game console standard), or 60FPS (baseline for a smooth framerate). The PC version has an astonishingly similar set of settings, which is to be expected for a game that comes out on PC, and is therefore nothing to brag about in this regard, but unfortunately suffers from the same lack of framerate options that the Android version has, which is more unforgivable, especially when some PC gamers have higher-end hardware that allows a fair amount of PC games to run at high framerates and have PC visual display units that run at higher refresh rates, so this is a missed opportunity from miHoYo.

Graphics settings on the Android version of the game
Graphics settings on the PC version of the game

Audio options are woefully barebones across the Android and PC versions, with only volume adjustments and the ability to adjust the music/dialog/sound effects sound levels, and that is about it. There is not much to say about this other than it is the minimum standard, but in this case, “standard” is mediocre, and even more so when the PC version features the same level of audio setting customization. Good luck making use of more sophisticated audio setups with this game, because you will need it.

Barebones sound settings on the Android version
…and the same applies to the PC version too

Language settings, across the Android and PC versions (both of which are exactly the same) are textually diverse, with limited voice acting language support, which makes the game immediately accessible to the masses, though with voice acting, while that is limited in terms of the languages available, the text support circumvents issue somewhat, though some folks may not like having to pay attention to both the closed captions/subtitles and the in-game/menu text and the voice acting at the same time.

Language settings are plentiful on a text/UI front, but not so much on the voice acting front, which is understandable

Regarding game controls, the Android and PC versions lack customization in terms of button assignment for in-game actions, though with the Android version, customising in-game action touch icon placement would be nice, but that is not included in the game, but rather, you can only choose whether you want to aim with a phone’s built-in gyroscope, which is a nifty feature, and whether you want a separate walking touch icon. As for the PC version of the game, you can only get to configure X and Y-axis configurations for gamepad configurations, and you are only presented with a picture of a gamepad with fixed button assignments. Don’t like that? Tough luck, and it is made worse by the fact that most Occidental gamers are more familiar with X (Sony – cross)/A (Xbox syntax) being the “accept” key, and O (Sony – circle)/B (Xbox syntax) being the “decline” key in menu choices.

On the upside though, you can change key bindings if you are playing the game via keyboard and mouse, but that is restricted to just that: the keyboard and mouse, and you can adjust camera sensitivity on the PC and Android versions of the game.

Controls options on the Android version of the game: the choice of gyro aiming is nice, but overall, it is a little barebones
Controls settings on the PC version of the game with a gamepad: no customizable bindings – what a joke
Controls settings on the PC version of the game with a keyboard and mouse: at least you can change what keys you want to use here

Looking into the in-game screen layout, the touchscreen controls are reasonably spaced and located in the Android versions of the game, though there is more margin for user error for these controls on Android devices with ultra-wide aspect ratio screens, like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S as the additional space on the leftmost and rightmost sides of the screen aren’t used up to accommodate for camera notches and curved screen corners. Android handsets with more conventional screens, like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, do not have that extra space on the sides, making the controls look crammed, and there is a slightlyincreased chance of accidentally tapping on the icons while holding such devices in normal use. Also, accessing the menus can easily be done by tapping on the icons presented to you on the screen, though tool-tips that pop up after one second of holding down on an icon would probably ease with navigation as some of the icons are not immediately obvious in terms of what functions they serve, so as it stands, paying attention to the first few hours of the game is of vital importance if you want to even have a good idea as to what the icons serve without having to pause the game and experimentally, yet briefly browse the game menus.

Android screenshots of the game, in-game, on a Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S

Note the presence of leftmost and rightmost vertical empty space here, as that is done to accommodate for the dumb smartphone design decisions like camera notches and rounded corners on smartphone screens, which has an unintended upside of minimizing accidental tapping/presses on the touch icons in normal handling of such a smartphone in the game
Android screenshots of the game, in-game, on a Xiaomi Redmi Note 3.

Note the lack of leftmost and rightmost vertical empty space here, as this was taken on a phone that did not have a camera notch, a screen with rounded corners, or even an ultra-wide screen.

The PC version of the game is similar in terms of presentation and layout, and has key prompts to tell you which keys or buttons to press for certain actions, and if you are playing the game with a keyboard and mouse, you can even click on the icons scattered across the screen, thus having the same level of access to menus on the in-game screen as if you were playing the game on an Android device. However, if you are playing the game with a game controller, then you will need to hold down the LB/L1 button and push the Right Thumbstick in a particular direction to choose an option, or press any presented button for certain actions, and that is slightly more cumbersome than the keyboard and mouse controls in the game as a result.

PC screenshots of the game, with gamepad controls
PC screenshots of the game with keyboard and mouse controls

After playing the game across three devices over a span of 64 hours, the gameplay in terms of framerate and performance has been the most stable on the PC by far, with a near-consistent 60FPS at almost all times at maxed out settings, with some minor dips in effects-heavy situations. Sadly though, the same cannot be said for the Android devices that I have, with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S, a 2020 mid-range device, running at 20-30FPS on the maxed out settings, with some hard pauses and some framerate dips to 10FPS on effects-laden stages and situations, and on bare-minimum settings, the game runs slightly better, but not by much, and the pauses still exist on certain occasions. As for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, another mid-range Android device when it came out in 2016, the performance is far more horrid, with the game running at 10-15FPS maxed out, whilst browsing the game world, with the game running at 20-30FPS at the bare minimum settings, with the framerates dipping to 10-15FPS in more graphically challenging scenarios, and the game sometimes pauses mid-action and fails to respond to menu navigational taps. Additionally, on devices with 32GB of onboard (internal) storage, it is very challenging to install the game, as you would need to free up 7 gigabytes of storage space, and most of that can easily be occupied by personal storage like media files sent via instant messaging apps like WhatsApp/Telegram, and photos and videos stored in the Camera folders (usually labelled “DCIM” – /storage/emulated/0/DCIM/). To make matters worse in terms of low-end Android device gaming, Android devices with 32-bit ARM CPUs are simply not supported, like the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S3, Motorola Moto G LTE 2013, et cetera.

Therefore, if you want to play this game on an Android device, grab yourself a higher-end Android device, as none of the devices that I have would run the game satisfactorily without struggle. Playing this game on a PC however, is absolutely easy, especially if you have a PC with mid-range specs, or even, a Sony PlayStation 4.

Closing Statements (Final Words)

To summarise this ridiculously lengthy first impressions rundown, this game does have its fun moments, such as the melee combat, and the bow-and-arrow aspects of the gameplay. Browsing the world also has its breathtaking moments, and dealing with some NPCs, like the annoying assistant that tags along with you throughout the game named Paimon and listening to them, and their dialogue, does have its giggle-worthy moments, but the game is fraught with technological issues, especially the anti-cheat kernel on the PC release, and the woeful performance on mobile version of the game, weird game bugs, incomplete character lip-syncing and animations, and microtransaction-encouraging practices that handicap the game progression, alongside a slightly mediocre overall story that can be a chore to follow, not to mention the political controversy surrounding the game which is bound to cause disagreements amongst certain gamers, the health struggles that this game may cause or exacerbate, like repetitive strain injury in certain cases, and the fact that this game is largely based on Zelda: breath of the Wild in terms of game world design cues, enemies, and the game world navigation, which is also another contentious point.

Would I personally suggest that you should try the game out? As the game is free-to-play, there is no harm in trying it out if you are willing to do so in spite of its flaws, and you are the sort of person that likes some of its design choices that miHoYo has taken, but if any of the flaws mentioned above are deemed “game breakers” to you, then avoiding/not wanting to play the game is frankly understandable.

Categories
Uncategorized

Fade to Oblivion – First Impressions (No Spoilers) – Volumes 2 and 3

by Abdul Hussain (H/T Fahim Ferdous Promi for the material)

In my First Impressions write-up of the Volume 1 of the novelization of the Fade to Oblivion story, I felt that the story as a whole has started off tremendously in spite of the low fantasy misconceptions that I have had when I was reading the Volume 1 novelization for the very first time, as I have initially thought that the story was based on a universe that is more akin to a work of fiction like The Lord of the Rings, which has completely fictional settings that are unlike what humans are familiar with, than 24 (the latter series), or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), both of which is based in real-world locations, but has some fictional countries while still being set, or inspired by real-world geographical places. If you have not read my First Impressions write-up for Volume 1 of this story, then I suggest you do so first, before you continue reading this First Impressions piece.

Now, as the novel was split into separate issues in the same way as the comic adaptation of this story, the story almost immediately starts off without any hesitation whatsoever with regards to story build-up, which can catch the readers off-guard if they have not read Volume 1 for some time, though simultaneously and understandably, having a slow, or tardy build-up will annoy the potential readers more than immediately getting into the action, so in a multi-issue release, an immediate start is much more sensible than a “slow-burn” approach.

As for the action-packed scenes, especially the fight scenes within the novelization, the scenes in question have been meticulously described, with the author, Fahim Ferdous Promi, showing that he has massive amounts of knowledge in the realms of martial arts, at least from a spectatorial perspective, which is largely helped by his background, and it shows in the story, and the way the characters develop and express their emotions in the story are grounded, and believable, without any awkward story-writing flaws that would make the prospective readers question the author’s story-writing abilities, and all of these aspects have been written in such a way that the readers will be able to immerse themselves into the settings and locations within the story, and its characters in a near-trance-like manner.

However, for a first-time story effort, apart from the low fantasy that has initially made me question the settings and the existence of some of the pop culture references, in which I have eventually understood when I found out what the story is based on, which is that the story is set around 2010, with some fictionalized elements, I cannot think of any downsides when reading Volumes 2 and 3 of the story, especially when considering that this story is a first-time effort.

All in all, the story continues from where it left off on a very strong note, even though my views on Volumes 2 and 3 are chiefly the same as Volume 1 of the novelized story, and it maintains its momentum effortlessly, in which I dearly hope that this trend continues in the future.

For those who want to check out the story and the updates on the project, you can go to Script’s Facebook page or their Twitter page, and if you want to monetarily support Script, you can do so via its Patreon page here. Also, full disclosure: volumes 2 and 3 of the novelized story have been given to me by Fahim Ferdous Promi for reviewing purposes, as stated in the Volume 1 First Impressions write-up.

Categories
Uncategorized

Fade to Oblivion – First Impressions (No Spoilers) – Volume 1

by Abdul Hussain (H/T Fahim Ferdous Promi for the material)

I was recently given a novelised copy of a comic book project titled Fade to Oblivion by an aspiring fiction writer named Fahim Ferdous Promi (mononymously known as “Promi”) whose events are loosely framed upon real life experiences of the author himself. As I have been told, the origins of the story trace their roots to a Bleach fan-fiction dating back to an afternoon of November 2009 when most of its concepts materialised during his correspondences with friends throughout the course of a routinely ordinary chemistry class which then continued to evolve into a stand-alone endeavour spanning over ten years, becoming Fade to Oblivion.

The story starts off in a slightly light-hearted tone which effectively and immediately grabs the attention of the reader from the moment they start reading, and with the immediacy of the fighting scenes in the story, it helps further the entertainment factor, especially when there are certain fictional works, such as Hideo Kojima’s games, that can drag out scenes for too long to the point that attention spans are tested to the limits.

The story is set in a fictionalised version of Earth circa 2010, given away by a plethora of pop culture references hailing from then which adds to its mildly light-hearted nature, and is littered with name-swaps for countries, such as “Gangehrid” for Bangladesh, “Liberty Haven” for the United States of America, “Maple Falls” for Canada and so on, as well as products, such as “PlaySystem” for PlayStation” and “CapuMon” for Pokemon among many others, which is a choice that seems to certainly help with circumventing rights issues akin to Konami and their Pro Evolution Soccer franchise regarding their inability to acquire the rights to every single soccer team, stadium and league.

As for the narrative progression in the first issue, which is currently available for free here, as stated above, the story starts off with an action/fighting scene almost immediately upon one beginning to read it, but then slowly progresses positively with daily life actions and dialogue that aid the reader with getting to understand the characters better, only to drop another fight scene soon afterwards, which are always described with great technical proficiency while the non-fighting scene elements are described with a fantasy-themed flair, both serving to communicate the passion that the author has for this project to the audience remarkably well, especially for a debut effort that was a decade in the making.

However, due to the fanciful elements featured within the story, like the implementation of mystical practices and encounters with certain entities, some readers may be put off by the false impression/misconception that the story is based on a completely mythical universe that is separate from the real world, a type of fiction called “high fantasy”,when in fact the story, while having understandable fictional elements, is based on the real world, and mirrors what is happening within the real world, similar to how popular media franchises like South Park operate/work in terms of storylines, a type of fiction called “low fantasy”,which is what I admittedly was guilty of when reading it initially to the point that I had to ask the author for a little clarification. Besides the early bit of confusion, though, I have thoroughly enjoyed the first issue, and cannot wait to see how the story unfolds in the future instalments to come.

For those who want to check out the story and the updates on the project, you can go to Script’s Facebook page or their Twitter page, and if you want to monetarily support Script, you can do so via its Patreon page here.

Categories
Uncategorized

Jet Set Radio Future – CXBX-Reloaded – Microsoft Xbox (2001/2002) – Complete Playthrough

by Abdul Hussain

About bloody time: I have finished Jet Set Radio Future, via CXBX-Reloaded, a Microsoft Xbox emulator that is still infantile by development standards, though to be fair to LukeUsher et al, the brains behind the successor to the original CXBX emulator project, the whole Microsoft Xbox emulation scene was in a state of disarray and confusion, and stagnation, due to chiefly misunderstanding the methods of emulating the first x86-based games console, alongside minimal manpower. Now, as for CXBX-Reloaded and its future plans:

So Luke, you and your team better get your backsides moving if you want CXBX-Reloaded to be more than “just a JSRF launcher” hahaha (just messing with ya, but yeah, I wish the same too).

Now, as for the complete playthrough, here you go. Enjoy.

Categories
Uncategorized

[An ‘Insanity Daily’ blog post] Weighing up the end of Twitter

The negatives here sums up the ever-gaping asshole Twitter in 2020 at least.

The Most Appropriate URL On The Internet Right Now

Things I will not miss on Twitter:

  • SJW’s
  • Some fuckwit trending that I’ve not a clue who they are until I find out people are blethering on about fucking Love Island again
  • Simple Twitter users thinking everything in life works in binaries (also very much social justice warriors again)
  • Entitled wankers using exotic animals as playthings to make viral gifs out of
  • Being suspended for absolutely no reason, and certainly nothing Twitter bots can ever specifically tell me (because their bots are totally broken)
  • Virtue signalling muppets
  • Simple folk who have regressed so far backwards in intelligence/intellect that they have to actually remind themselves on their profile whether they’re a he or a she

Things I will miss on Twitter:

  • Asking anyone who casually called me “racist” to link me to any post whatsoever I’ve ever made that was racist – and making them look like utter tits because they…

View original post 101 more words

Categories
Uncategorized

[A ‘Insanity Daily’ blog post] Does Bernie ever ask himself why he thi…actually just why

Now this article is a laughably joyful read, but Insanity Daily (Stephen). Enjoy 🙂

The Most Appropriate URL On The Internet Right Now

I think most people watching Bernie wheezing and blurting his way through his ‘victory’ speech last night were thinking the same thing as I was: “WHYYY Bernie…just whhyyyyyyy”. Can’t he just give it up? Hillary Clinton says nobody likes him. She’s probably well placed to actually know this. But noooo, oh no, Bernie is gonna WIN…No, Bernie is probably going to DIE before he wins.

Donald Trump, of course, is also way too old to be president – he’s definitely showing signs of senility. We all know that Donald would never accept that he’s too old, but it’s not too late for you, Bernie!! You don’t look like a winner, you never looked like a winner, you never will look like a winner. Just go home and put your slippers on and have a nice cup of tea, pull that special reclining chair back and watch the results come…

View original post 95 more words

Categories
Uncategorized

The Limey General Election 2K19 Build-Up Soap Opera

By Abdul Hussain

One may ask why I have not got around to writing much, or producing a lot of commentary videos as of late: well, the chief reason for that is, beside getting sunk into gaming once again, I’ve decided to pay attention to limey politics, or rather, the soap opera-like build-up to the UK General Election 2019, and what a monumentally laughable farce it really was, but I have to admit that I was keeping up to pace with that for comedic reasons, and to an extent, it did not disappoint in that regard.

So then, where shall I start? Let’s start with the first set of televised debates that took place in November 2019 then, especially with the ITV (UK) debate that took place on November 19, 2019, whereby besides Jeremy Corbyn verbally promising “a fairer UK for all” and  verbally promising that the NHS will not be sold off alongside more financial support for public services, and Boris Johnson promising to “Get Brexit Done®”, and talking about his reported past “achievements” (political promises are like promises of repentance from an habitual  adulterer if you ask me: don’t trust what they say, but see what they do after what they have said), the questions that were greenlit for approval were frankly so laughably basic that you would expect these questions to be asked by a kindergarten student, and not a bunch of fully-grown human beings, such as, but not limited to (paraphrased):

  • “Can I trust you?”

As for the BBC’s UK Election (Prime Ministerial) Debate (December 6, 2019) though, while some of the questions provided by the audience were a little better in terms of the topics covered, the most compelling question (I thought) that was this one:

Additionally, as political journalist with a passion for sports, Neil Clark has stated, rightly in my opinion, that this Leaders’ Debate allowed the leaders “to finish off their points”, with BBC’s Nick Robinson chairing the debate fairly, and has also stated that the BBC debate “was a far cry from the abysmal ITV ‘debate’ a few weeks earlier, which had one reaching for the mute button after a few minutes”, while also admitting that the Leaders’ Debates “mark the X-Factorisation of British politics” (read/think: sensationalises politics to the point of it being a tool of entertainment for the sake of viewer figures). All of these points mentioned here, are frankly points that I agree with without a doubt, and I will not add anything to that as there is not anything to add in this regard.

However, here is where the build-up reaches “ultimate cringe tier”: the insufferable repetition of a certain catchphrase, and a repetition of a certain term. Can you guess what those two things are?

I’ll gladly wait…

Are you going to spit the answers out then?

Sod it – “Get Brexit Done®”, and “Antisemitism®” are the two key terms that became the highlight of the UK General Election 2019 build-up, amongst topics like the National Health Service and the fears of further privatisation efforts, and the UK’s exit from the European Union.

As for the “Antisemitism®” accusations against Jeremy Corbyn, it has been rightly described as “a witch-hunt” designed to defame and delegitimise Corbyn, with Gideon Levy on the Haaretz news outlet pointing out that “the Jewish establishment in Britain and the Israeli propaganda machine have taken out a contract on the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The contract was taken out a long time ago, and it was clear that the closer Corbyn came to being elected prime minister, the harsher the conflict would get”.  In fact, it has gotten to the point whereby the word “antisemitism” is treated as a laughable Internet meme (thus the ® symbol used to denote its use in the context of the “Corbyn witch-hunt”, and the same goes for the “Get Brexit Done” slogan), and thus delegitimises any serious intentions in terms of using said term in political and apolitical discussions, especially when it comes to safeguarding the wellbeing of people of all races/religions.

Now, with regards to the “Get Brexit Done®” slogan that Boris Johnson kept parroting, while there are valid points with regards to respecting the vote results of the EU Referendum in 2016, how that vote outcome is executed is sadly, an entirely different matter, especially when not a lot of writers are fanatics of Boris Johnson (here, here, and here, though there’s most likely going to be more), and Alexandra Hall Hall, former UK diplomat, resigning from her position as she “does not want to peddle half-truths” on Brexit. As for that slogan though, it has gotten so cringeworthy that the Daily Telegraph staffer, Michael Deacon, amongst others, have started poking fun at said slogan

Speaking of “cringe”, here’s a little something else: doing a Hillary Clinton by blaming undesirable political outcomes on Russia, but this time, in response to the reported NHS document leaks, in which ZDNet has reported this story, which includes the Reddit post linking to the NHS document leaks (here, and here), though Clarity of Signal has written a write-up on the past events surrounding one of the key driving forces behind the NHS Russiagate saga: the Atlantic Council.

In short: a run-of-the-mill leader election build-up, with the UK taking pages out of the US playbook, ranging from the televised debates, to the arbitrary Russiagate that popped out of thin air, with a side-serving of laughably entertaining, Internet meme-tier cringe that would make one laugh and “facepalm” at this build-up.

Thus, at this point, who needs actual entertainment when one can get creative by just poking fun at it all?

Oh well: vote, or don’t vote – it was an interesting rollercoaster ride. I’m personally not expecting much from this to be frank, so whatever happens, will happen, so… whatever.

Categories
Uncategorized

Call of Duty: Mobile (Android, iOS – free-to-play with microtransactions) – game review (of sorts)

by Abdul Hussain – H/T “Marney Imy” (@marneymo (Twitter)) and Mohammed Hafeez

Platforms tested: Android OS (Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 – Havoc-OS (10), LG G4 – AOSPExtended (9), Samsung Galaxy S4 – GT-i9505 – Samsung OEM firmware (5.0.1), and BlueStacks – PC (7.1.1))

Who would have thought that a somewhat decent game on a smartphone would exist? Not me, and I was initially, immediately sceptical when I first heard of this game being out on mobile devices (Apple’s iOS and Google/Alphabet’s Android OS), especially when mobile gaming has a bad reputation for being littered with copy-and-paste vertical endless-running games (made popular by Temple Run), tap-laden match-X-amount-of-objects games (made popular by King’s Candy Crush Saga), and egregious microtransactions that would put console/PC gaming-synonymous repeat monetization practices to shame.

Microtransactions – the basic rundown

However, in the case of Call of Duty: Mobile, the microtransactions are sadly what one would expect in a free-to-play mobile/smartphone title, ranging from a ridiculously unfairly implemented tiered free-versus-paywall rewards system (one or two items for free players versus almost 20 items for those who are willing to spend money on a Premium Pass), and a two-tier credit system (credits earned via gameplay versus credits earned while paying up monetarily beforehand), to the heavy-handed, frequent promotion of paywall-tiered incentives to encourage players of the game to cough up the money for these incentives, which range from gun skins to soldiers and credits, and at this point, it can be a genuine deciding, and perhaps make-or-break factor that decides whether one wishes to play such a game or not, for whatever reason and cause. As of the time of writing though, the game is not as bad as some of the games in terms of microtransaction “design” choices, like Miniclip’s 8 Ball Pool, whereby level progression is more stunted due to said choices when compared to this game, though these impressions may be subject to change once I play the game more, and/or once any updates that either handicap or improve this arrive later down the line.

Tiered rewards systems shown on display here
This game has a tendency to lock out certain game achievement objectives behind a paywall in the form of a Premium Pass.
Oh, you’ve increased your Battle Pass tier level, and you haven’t forked out a shekel? Oh dear – here’s what you COULD HAVE got if you’ve forked out money (hint: you won’t just get 1 or 2 rewards – you’ll get 10-15 more). Sadly, this theme of teasing Premium Pass incentives continues throughout the game.
Yep, thanks to the CP credit system, and how that’s only available to those who monetarily fork out money for it, you can only get crates immediately via the CP currency (Call of Duty: Mobile’s paywall-only virtual currency). You can get loot crates via gameplay, but good luck with that.
Ruby Rose from RWBY: Oooooooh, that’s a freaking sweet gun
Activision Blizzard/Tencent/Timi Studios: Sorry ma’am, shekels please…

The Game Itself – the basic rundown of the game modes included

Now, with the microtransactions being talked about here and out of the way, this game is merely an online multiplayer title published by Activision, and developed by Tencent Games’ studio, Timi Studios, and as of the time of writing (December 3, 2019), has Zombies Mode, in which you’re facing a bunch of zombies and you blow their brains out to survive, which has its roots in Call of Duty: Black Ops, a conventional bunch multiplayer modes, ranging from Free-for-All and Team Deathmatch to Domination, Search and Destroy, and Frontline, and Battle Royale, which is a “last man standing” game mode somewhat akin to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, which in itself should provide some lasting value to the game itself with the minimal risk of the game becoming too stale in terms of the diversity of content and game modes, though the game has introduced some time-limited modes such as the melee-only “Stick and Stones” mode, and a sniper rifle-only mode, unimaginatively named “Snipers Only”.

In addition to this, the game maps on offer are based on the seventh gaming generation (Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and  Nintendo Wii) versions of the Call of Duty games, ranging from the numbered Modern Warfare games (EXCLUDING Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)), to the early Black Ops games, and so is the gameplay and the graphics, with map designs and game controls being tailored for smartphones, without any noticeable negative compromises, as the touchscreen controls work surprisingly well, but compared to a keyboard-and-mouse setup, touchscreen controls is a far cry from the keyboard-and-mouse setup, although for those who have good enough PCs but weak smartphones, Tencent’s officially sanctioned Gameloop Android emulator and BlueStacks are two ways to play the game on PC, and with playing the game on PC, cross-play is reportedly segregated to ensure that emulator-toting players are matched with other emulator-toting players to reduce gameplay imbalances.

The Gameplay and Game Controls

For those who are not familiar with how the game plays, especially when I have described the gameplay in the game as akin to the earlier console/PC Call of Duty titles, the gameplay is fast-paced, snappy, and arcade-tier, which is easy to get into with weapon authenticity being of a slightly lower priority in terms of game design, and the ability to “run around like a headless chicken” is pretty easy as a result, while shooting opponents in the process – that is: if you’re familiar with how Call of Duty games largely play as a whole, and the maps in this entry range from Nuketown and Summit to Hijacked, a map consisting of a superyacht deserted in the bloody middle of nowhere, because videogames, most of which, as stated earlier in this article, are based on the maps in earlier Call of Duty games, which provides a sense of familiarity for those who have played the earlier games before, and as for the multiplayer player-base sizes, 8 players can play in one solo multiplayer matchup, or two 5-player teams in team-based sessions, which is too small by 2019 console/PC gaming standards, but is satisfactory for mobile gaming, considering the nature of it, and the limitations that come with mobile gaming from a technical and free-time perspective.

The main menu, that presents all of the available options, including the three main game modes (middle-right, presented in a segmented, stylized M-shape manner)

As for the game controls, the game itself offers two main types of game controls for the game: Simple Mode, which auto-fires whenever the crosshair is hovered over a rival player, and Advanced Mode, which allows for more freedom in terms of aiming to shoot, with the ability to toggle automatic Aim Down the Sights support, which works fairly well for touchscreen gameplay, especially on devices with big screens as bigger screens reduce the risk of accidentally touching gameplay action icons that act as “button commands”, though the layout of the gameplay action icons can be tweaked to alleviate accidental touches. In addition to this, there has been the re-introduction to game controller support for the game, though I cannot test this personally as I do not have the necessary gamepads (a Sony DualShock 4 or a Microsoft Xbox One controller) to test out the game on. As for keyboard and mouse support, that is exclusive to PC users who use an Android emulator like Tencent’s officially supported/sanctioned emulator, Gameloop, which supports both PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) and Call of Duty: Mobile out-of-the-box, and BlueStacks, which only works on the Microsoft Windows version of the emulator, and not on the Apple macOS version of the emulator, complete with segregated matchmaking as mentioned earlier in the article, and out of the game controls that are available, keyboard-and-mouse, once mastered, is the most accurate in terms of aiming and firing, thus the matchmaking segregation protocols that are reportedly put in place, and as someone who has played on PC against two mobile phone users in a private match, it is laughably easy to why the segregation is implemented: so much so that they have laughably described my movement as akin to that of “a Dragon Ball Z character” and the shooting capabilities akin to the ageing actor, Clint Eastwood.

The game offers two main control modes: Simple Mode, which autofires on opponents when the cursor hovers over an opponent, and Advanced Mode, allowing for more manual control.

The More Technical Aspects of the Game – Graphics, Framerate, Storage Use, and Tested Setups

Onto the more technical aspects of the game, the game itself can easily be installed via the Google Play Store on eligible phones and emulators, though in the case of the Samsung Galaxy S4, I had to resort to more technical measures to get the game installed (read: download the APK from APKMirror, and find an OBB file from some random site and place it into the desired directory), as Google Play Store does not show the game in-store due to it reportedly being incompatible with the device. The game itself takes up around 1.8GB of storage as of December 3, 2019 (version 1.0.9.6) immediately after installing from my personal experience, which can be a massive storage hog for devices with 16/32GB internal storage only, especially without expandable storage, so having 3-4GB of free storage space is recommended before installing the game, and if needed, please get yourself a microSD card and transfer any data that is not immediately needed onto it, like camera photos.

Call of Duty: Mobile takes up almost 1.9GB on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3

The satisfactory minimum system requirements for the game are as follows (source: Activision Blizzard and HutMobile):

  • Android (low/medium with 30-50FPS average, 60FPS in some instances): OS: 5.1 (Lollipop) – RAM: 2GB (Activision) (3GB according to HutMobile), CPU: Qualcomm Snadragon 625 (HutMobile)/650/808 (personal tests – Xiaomi Redmi Note 3/LG G4) – GPU: Adreno 418 (LG G4)/506 (HutMobile)/510 (Xiaomi Redmi Note 3)
  • Android (ultra-low with 20-40FPS average – Samsung Galaxy S4, GT-I9505): OS: 5.0.1 (Lollipop) – RAM: 2GB – CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 – GPU: Adreno 320
  • Apple iOS: OS: iOS 9.0 – Handset: Apple iPhone 6/7 or better (HutMobile)

As for playing the game on PC via BlueStacks, I have played the game on PC with the following hardware specifications, which can reach maximum settings without compromise at a user level (BlueStacks will not allow “maximum graphical fidelity” as the game will just reset itself to “Very High” even after selecting that option in the BlueStacks Android emulator):

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700k
  • GPU: nVidia Geforce GTX Titan X
  • RAM: 4 x 8GB Corsair Vengeance RAM (32GB total)
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10

After playing the game on three different smartphones, with varying setups and hardware configurations, the Samsung Galaxy S4 provided the worst gaming experience for the game due to the very dated hardware, with framerate averages reaching around 20 to 40 frames per second (FPS) on most maps and modes on the lowest graphical fidelity settings with Samsung’s version of Android 5.0.1 installed (below the minimum advertised OS requirements), with the LG G4 sitting in between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, with around an average framerate count of 30-50FPS, with some maps and camera angles making that hit 60 frames per second on low graphical fidelity settings and on a custom (hobbyist/homebrew-made) firmware called AOSPExtended v6.6, which is based on Android 9 (Pie), and lastly, but the best in terms of the available devices, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 can hit around 30-60FPS on average with medium graphical fidelity on a custom firmware called Havoc-OS 3.0, which is based on Android 10, which is a surprise for the ageing devices, as my initial expectations were that they would severely struggle even on the lowest settings. Fortunately, the game itself will not allow you to select higher settings than what your device are capable of, by simply not showing such options, in the eventuality that selecting such options will grind a dated phone down to unusable extremes. However, if your PC can handle Android emulation with consummate ease, as is the case with my aforementioned setup, then maximum settings can be selected without framerates dipping before the coveted sixty frames per second, and that needs no further explanation as to how great that can be in gaming terms, other than silky-smooth gameplay with quick responses that are only hindered by Internet speeds/online server speeds. As for graphics and how they stack up, they’re comparable to the early-entry seventh gaming generation (Sony PlayStation 3/Microsoft Xbox 360) games in the franchise, with the exception of shadows, whereby the shadows look like a jarringly bad jagged farce, and some of the non-interactive vehicles and walls looking like vehicles from Sony’s The Getaway, but where the game graphically shines is in the player models, with the overall clothing and glove stitches looking crisp and clear, and so does the guns and weapons in the game.

Graphical options are omitted or greyed out when the game feels that they will not work well on targeted devices – snapshots: LG G4 – H815 – AOSPExtended 6.6 – Android 9
Graphical options are omitted or greyed out when the game feels that they will not work well on targeted devices – snapshots: Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 – Havoc-OS – Android 10
Upon playing the game via BlueStacks on Microsoft Windows, all the game options are available, right off the bat, but don’t let the “Max” “Graphic Quality” (sic) selection fool you – that will reset itself to “Very High” upon each BlueStacks emulator restart for some reason.

Closing Statements

All in all, as a mobile game offering, it is perhaps one of mobile gaming’s surprises of 2019, and if you’re interested in playing a quick first-person shooter while you sit on the toilet, trying to relieve your bowels, or on public transport, while you are willing to overlook the microtransactions that are presented to you in-game (I seriously cannot blame you if you can’t), then you cannot go wrong with Call of Duty: Mobile. Hell, if you’re in the mood for a free-to-play session of Call of Duty, and you are hesitant to fork out money for a mainline entry, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), while you don’t mind taking a trip down Gaming Memory Lane, then I would also suggest this game as well, but obviously, with modern military shooters, come political undertones that not a lot of folks will be fond of, for whatever reason, and that is understandable, though in this entry, there’s no solo campaign with a storyline to follow, so that issue is minimized somewhat, but with all that said, one could do a lot worse than play this game… on mobile, like playing this game on PC (cue the incoming anti-PC gaming outrage), and getting so incoherently drunk that walking in a straight line is no longer a possibility.

Now, here’s a shameless plug: please watch my gameplay sessions of Call of Duty: Mobile, played with BlueStacks on PC, so enjoy!

A Team Deathmatch session of CoD: Mobile from yours truly
…aaaaaand another Team Deathmatch session of CoD: Mobile, because why not?
Lastly, here’s a time-limited Sticks & Stones (melee-only) session, which was fun while that session lasted.