Star Trek Online (PS5): COMPLETED!

As it turns out, it is possible to complete Star Trek Online, and it’s possible to do it without paying any money at all. Because that’s what I did.

I know that for many people, the game here is all the endgame content, playing with others, doing the same missions over and over and collecting all the ships and stuff. That’s not for me. I reached the cap of level 65, then finished all the single play missions remaining, and that’s it. And it was mostly OK?

I’m still baffled how buggy it is, especially since some of the bugs I came across were there and reported on the official forums three or four years ago, and how clunky it all is. The menus are unwieldy and the menu navigation controls clearly suffer from controller rather than mouse use. The animations are PS2 level woodeness, characters randomly stand on chairs and tables (or sometimes, inside walls, doors or furniture), and getting stuck inside asteroids or rocky outcrops in caves is such a frequent issue that rather than fix it, they included a “warp somewhere nearby” option in the menu called “I am stuck”.

It’s repetitive. It’s broken. It’s ugly. And, although this isn’t the game’s fault, it doesn’t even fit into the Star Trek universe any more. But I enjoyed it enough to spend what is probably 125+ hours on it so I suppose it must have done something right?

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (PS4): COMPLETED!

And so, the Kazuma Kiryu saga is over. That’s it. Done. Well, until they decide to make another one which I’m 100% certain they will at some point.

Yakuza 6 isn’t a radical departure from the series, nor is it the pinnacle, but it is more melancholy, more complicated, and more based in seeming realism than previously. The story is very important, what with it being the last episode, so I dare not spoil it for you, but it involves Kiryu going to prison (again) for his part in the events of Yakuza 5, during which time Haruka vanishes only to reappear just as Kiryu finishes his sentence and is then coincidentally (or not) hit by a car and hospitalised. Oh yeah, and she has a baby, which The Dragon of Dojima decides to look after while Haruka lies comatose – meaning for several hours of play you have a baby to carry round everywhere too.

The first half of the game is mostly about Kiryu trying to track down both where Haruka has been for the last three years, and who – and then where – the father of the child is. With some of that resolved, Yakuza 6 returns to more Yakuza’y traditions, with gangsters and rival clans and Triads and the Korean Mafia and some off-track vigilantes all getting involved in the story, and it transpires that Haruka’s accident was much more central to the all out war in Kamurocho than it seemed at first.

Kiryu and Akiyama fight some Triads in the sewers. Pretty standard.

As usual, there are twists that would make a Chubby Checker sweat: allegiance swapping, surprise reveals, backstabbing, spying, double-crossing and lots of fake respect. As agendas are revealed the plot gets more complicated, not less, and it isn’t until the final chapter than things finally start making sense. If there’s anything Ryu Ga Gotoku can do, it’s tell a gripping yarn.

And, interwoven is the regular series nonsense – arcades, side quests, bizarre events and even more bizarre characters. In the more rural Onomichi region of Hiroshima, where Kiryu spends half of the game, you come across references to a number of Studio Ghibli films – a boy and a girl swapping bodies when they fall down some stairs, and a girl who claims to have leapt through time, for example. Onomichi reminded me a bit of Okinawa from Yakuza 3, and combined with the local Yakuza family – who are key to the story – it feels a little like a re-tread of that game. Even one of the voice actors appears as characters in both.

In Hiroshima, Kiryu doesn’t wear his jacket. Big news!

Visually, it’s the most stunning Yakuza game to date. It’s running the same engine as Kiwami 2 and that looked incredible too, but having new locations helps even more here, I think. Playing it on a PS5 meant loading times hardly existed, which was much appreciated.

There isn’t much else I can say which doesn’t also apply to the other games in the series too, or that would ruin the excellent story here. As I said, it’s not my favourite Yakuza game (I think that might be Zero?), but it’s still absolutely fantastic. The surprises and the wait for the end reveal kept me hooked all the way through, and the gameplay is solid, the fighting meaty and enjoyable, and the nonsense turned up just enough. The characters in Yakuza games are some of the most well written, fleshed out and acted in the media, and that’s no different here. I particularly liked the unexpected appearance of Beat Takeshi, and his character arc.

Most importantly, if you’ve any affinity for Yakuza games, you absolutely must play this game. Or you could watch my playthough below, although that won’t tell you everything as Sega like to block the recording of the final chapters of Yakuza games…

Star Trek Online (PS5)

If you’re a long time reader of this diary, or you follow me online generally, you probably know I don’t play games online very often, and I never play MMORPGs at all. Well, not since a brief dabble into Anarchy Online some 17 years ago, anyway. Why, you might ask, am I playing Star Trek Online then? And I would answer you with, I Really Don’t Know.

As a free to play game, I did a bit of research first. Mainly to find out how free “free” was: Are later bits impossible without spending money? Are you limited to just a few areas/missions/etc. unless you subscribe? That sort of thing. It turns out that Star Trek Online is surpisingly generous – there are something like 15 main “stories” (at least if you play as a Federation character – I think they’re different if you choose Klingon or Romulan) which are fully playable without paying for anything, and you can reach Level 60 with your character before you hit the “endgame” content which may require some outlay. In all, it looks like you get a good 100-odd hours out of it for nowt. Not bad.

But why would I play an MMO? Again, research suggested it’s all playable single player. And, having reached Level 30 and the rank of Captain, I can confirm I’m yet to see anyone else in the game at all. Apart from a strange impromptu party which happened on the space dock at Earth, but that hardly counts:

I think the party was for me?

What I’m saying is, I’m playing a big ol’ Star Trek RPG, on my own, for free. So it’s not really an MMO at all, is it?

Not that you get the best things ever for free, of course. There are compromises, and it’s hardly Mass Effect levels of slick or Fallout New Vegas in Space in terms of combat or plot. It’s clunky, it’s jerky, it’s wonky and it’s fiddly. There are so many menus and items and options that it’s overwhelming. There are bugs galore, which seem to break quests for people frequently enough that they give you a “skip quest” option. It screws with Star Trek lore, although it does try to reference everything Star Trek has ever done, and some of the voice cast are actually straight from the various Trek series. There’s LCARS everywhere and all the ambient Trek noises you’d hope for – ship hum, door swish, computer bleeps, etc., so it’s trying very hard at least. It’s also set some time after TNG/DS9/Voyager.

As a single player RPG it’s a Numbers Go Up game. A boggling array of weapons, shields, upgrades and technologies for you, your crew and your ship ensure that at least 10 minutes of every hour’s play is poking around in the inventory checking to see if the DPS of your latest gun pickup is 0.1% better than the one you’re currently carrying, or if the 414 DPS antiproton phaser bank with a 250 degree firing arc and a 2s cooldown is better or worse than the 382 DPS plasma bank with a 360 firing arc but a 3s cooldown, or if you should ditch one of your quantum torpedo launchers so you can have both the antiproton bank and the plasma bank together instead. It’s like a complicated optician’s appointment.

Just icons and bars and number and words everywhere.

In terms of gameplay, missions are split between space and ground events. Those in space usually involve dogfights or scanning stuff, and those on the ground are typical Star Trek away mission fare, albeit without dead redshirts. You explore planets and caves and derilict space ships and board the odd vessel to assault it from inside. As I said, there are about 15 stories in total available, each with around 10 missions. The stories link together too, with the overall plots involving Romulan rebels, the resurgance of the Klingon Empire, and Iconian gateways. It’s interesting having new Trek stories, if nothing else, and it’s certainly better than the nonsense Discovery came up with.

I’ve completed six or so of these stories, with my randomly generated Bajoran officer who looks just like Major Kira from Deep Space 9. I have a ship which looks a bit like Voyager only is black and translucent and has 4 nacells, and it’s called the USS Shootyboi. I think I’m having fun, but I’m not entirely sure why. The Numbers Go Up draw, perhaps. There’s always a new ability or target to reach. It’s how they getcha.

USS Shootyboi is the pride of Star Fleet.

Returning to the clunkiness though, it’s hard to ignore. From the terrible animation and collision detection, to the PS2 graphics and environments, to the overly complicated systems (especially the seemingly superflous crafting and duty staff management), let alone stuff like the video below, it’s not a well game. The camera is wild, the controls unresponsive, and your away team frequently get in the way or get stuck in or under things. One mission I had to complete five times because the final “trigger” to send a report back to Star Fleet never appeared. If I’d paid money for this, I’d be somewhat miffed. As I understand it though, “clunk” is pretty synonymous with MMOs, and this one is now over a decade old (and free, I think I mentioned), so I shouldn’t be too harsh. Plus, being on my PS5 rather than PS4, the loading times are virtually removed, so that’s something.

This is the first game I’ve ever seen objects pop OUT instead of IN as you get closer.

Anyway, I could just walk away, right? Right. After the next mission.

Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Another PS4 game played on the PS5. I’ve not given this a go on an actual PS4 so I don’t know how much of this is the PS5, but having no loading is excellent, and it’s all in 4K and Kamurocho looks incredible.

Kiwami 2 is a remake of the original PS2 Yakuza 2 game, which I’ve never played. I knew some of the story from flashbacks in later games in the series, but none of the detail. Like the other Yakuza titles, the plot is all over the place – in a good way. People aren’t who you think they are, quite literally in several cases, and your allies have a tendency to swap sides. The story is mainly about the Korean mafia returning to Japan – having seemingly been wiped out 26 years ago – to take revenge on the Tojo Clan who killed them all on behalf of the police. More or less. Obviously, it’s not as simple as that.

As in the other Yakuzas, gameplay is a mixture of punching people in the face, and wandering round the city (well, cities – you return to Sotenbori too) finding people, places or avoiding things. There’s also the usual array of side missions, from the sensible to the nonsensical. In one, you might have to hunt down a kidnapper, but in another you’re a voice actor for a Boys Love video game. In the arcades there’s a fully working Virtua Fighter 2 machine next to the UFO Catchers, and you can play a golfing minigame, darts, or even run a hostess club should you not have enough to do in the main story. Oh! And best of all, a toilet arcade game called Toylets:

It’s Another Yakuza. It’s a very, very pretty Yakuza, and as always the voice acting and the characters are both fantastic. And, although I enjoyed it very much, if Yakuza isn’t for you then this isn’t going to change your mind.

If you want to watch my entire playthrough (bar the final chapter which Sega doesn’t let you broadcast), then you can here:

The Outer Worlds (PS4): COMPLETED!

I didn’t know as much about this game, aside from people saying it’s a bit like Fallout only in space. That in itself was enough to buy it, but I didn’t realise it wasn’t just a bit like Fallout in space, it was Fallout in space.

OK, so the main story is shorter, and areas are smaller, and you have to use a spaceship to get between them, but everything Fallout (New Vegas, mainly) is here. Factions. Companions. Weapon deterioration. Scavenging and stealing from containers. A form of VATS. Consoles to hack and doorlocks to pick. Skills and perks. A similar run-down retro-futuristic aesthetic. Your character waking up from a long time in suspended animation. Power armour. In fact, if it had a radio station with 50s songs to listen to, it’d be indistinguishable.

And you know what? It’s really bloody good. The plot starts with you, having been awoken decades late on a space ship heading to a new human colony, trying to obtain the things necessary to rescue (or not) the rest of your frozen friends. The colony you were supposed to be setting up is already well up and running by another ship that wasn’t left floating in space, and everywhere is run by a group of corporations, each with their own agendas.

What this comes down to is standard Fallout stuff. Go to a factory or abandoned library to clear them of creatures or bandits in order to get a vial of something or a reference book for someone. Help one faction defeat another faction. Find lost people, avenge dead people, help injured people, upset powerful people, and kill evil people. If you’ve played Fallout 3, New Vegas or 4 then this will be very familiar,

But that’s OK, because I like those games. And I very much liked this one too. For the record, I was a Very Good Girl, helped as many people as I could, and saved all my ice lolly chums. And I only did stealing when nobody could see me, so that doesn’t count, right? Oh, and I played it on my PS5 which no doubt made it look a bit nicer and mostly obliterated load times, which probably added to the enjoyment a bit too.

Oh yeah, and there are loads of toilets, but sadly they’re almost all the same as each other.

Concrete Genie (PS4): COMPLETED!

I thought this game was going to be about painting murals on walls, which then come to life. And, for a while, it is. You paint genies who can help you move objects, activate power or open doors, and you can paint random stuff on most vertical surfaces. However, it’s a lot darker than that and the first third of the game involves a lot of hiding from some not very nice bullies.

There’s quite a bit of Assassin’s Creed style traversal, which I wasn’t expecting. Not sure how Ash, the boy you control, has the skills needed to use the underside of a crane arm as monkey bars without freaking out he’s going to die. There’s a lot of collecting scrapbook pages that float around the rooftops, again giving the feel of Assassin’s Creed III.

But it isn’t Assassin’s Creed of course – it’s a painting game as I said. Until it isn’t. The final part of the game introduces attacks, a skating mechanic, and a health bar, as you suddenly have enemies to fight. It also introduced a bug where one of the enemies wouldn’t move and was invincible. These bits of the game, and the final boss, aren’t really what I signed up for and don’t really fit. It doesn’t help that the “lock on” button very rarely actually locks on to the baddies, and when it does it doesn’t stay locked on for long. I don’t know if that’s a bug or by design, but either way it hampers beating them and just adds annoyance to the end of the game.

Concrete Genie is a very pretty game (perhaps more so as I played it on the PS5), with some clever bits and a nice world and story, and the painting bits are enjoyable, but the world traversal is clunky and the game style switch was a bad idea.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4): COMPLETED!

Let me preface this by pointing out that I won’t be going into detail about the game itself. Enough has been written elsewhere about the premise, and to mention too much about the plot will just be spoilers anyway. Instead, I’ll tell you why it has taken me OVER A YEAR to complete it.

Well, the main issue was the loading times. After all the DLC was installed, it took more than ten minutes from turning on my PS4 to being able to control Kassandra (like I’d play as Alexios) in the game. Fast travel was anything but, with horsing my way across the map genuinely feeling faster (and although most of the time it wasn’t, at least I could pick up wood and ore on the way). To be honest, after a few months of hour-or-two sessions, I’d started to not play it most of the time just because it took so long to get into. In August 2020 I made another stab at it, but again after a while the loading got me down so I stopped.

And then I bought a PS5.

Playing Odyssey on that has been a revelation. OK, so the load times aren’t instant but fast travel is a few seconds now, not minutes, and from boot-to-control is under two minutes. Plus I’ve taken to using suspend and rest on the PS5 so really, loading has mostly gone. And it’s like a different game.

There are probably graphical improvements and fewer frames dropped too, but I wouldn’t notice. They’re much less important, anyway.

So finally, after a couple of months, the achievement popped for completing Kassandra’s Odyssey (and an email from Ubisoft – in real life – came through congratulating me, which just feels weird). I’ve not killed all of the Cult yet, although I’ve made a good go at it, not least because after finishing off Deimos and doing a few forts, I discovered I’m completely invincible, thanks to (presumably) a bug:

I! AM! IRON MAN! (or woman)

This means I can take down anyone with impunity, and attract as many mercenaries to attempt to kill me as is possible because, well, they can’t. Turns out one of them was a cultist too – bonus.

The game itself is fun. It’s more of the same as Origins, albeit with lynxes instead of hippos and with more boating. Kicking people off cliffs with my Spartan Kick never gets old. The problem is, it’s too big. There’s too much to do. Although I’ve completed the main questline (and a handful of side quests), and I’ve spent over 85 hours on it, there’s still about 1/4 of the map completely unexplored. There’s still 27 open quests (plus however many I’ve not even found yet). There’s two entire lots of DLC I’ve not touched. I still have some cultists to assassinate. I’m level 47 with a cap of (I think) 100. And who knows what else. Sure, you can’t complain you don’t get your money’s worth here, but I’ve other games that need playing!

Lego The Incredibles (PS4): COMPLETED!

I bought this at the same time as Lego DC Super-Villains, as it was cheap to get them both together. And we started playing soon after we’d 100%ed that. Despite both being Lego superhero themed games, they’re actually pretty different.

Of course, this is based on the two The Incredibles films – although you play through the second film before the first – rather than DC properties, but the hub world in particular is quite different. There’s a whole city, split into districts. One of them will be the scene for a crimewave, and you pop over and deal with the crimes: bank robberies, bombs to defuse, goons to beat up, and so on. Once you’ve cleaned up, another area gets hit but also you unlock a special thing to build and the locations of all the collectables in that region are unveiled.

Toilets in Video Games

The story mode is as good as ever, but doesn’t really differ from other Lego games. Unlike other recent Lego games there’s quite a low number of unlockable characters, as although there seems to be hundreds, most are just reskins of the main Incredibles family and associates. You can unlock guest characters from other Pixar films though, like Dory, Lightning McQueen and the kid from Up.

So it’s the same, only different. And very short – we 100%ed it in less time than it took to do just story mode in DC Super-Villains – but that’s OK as we enjoyed it anyway.

Lego DC Super-Villains (PS4): COMPLETED!

Yes! It’s yet another Lego game. I’ve played a lot of them now, and they’re all basically the same. The thing with this one, is you play as all the DC Comics bad guys who have to save the world from an alternate universe version of The Justice League who are bad. Which basically means smashing everything and solving the odd puzzle.

It isn’t the best Lego game, but none of them are bad and this is pretty high up in the list. As well as lots of varied levels and the usual humour, DC Super-Villains has a decent hub world (albeit one where Gotham City, Smallville and Metropolis are all smooshed up together instead of being hundreds of miles apart) with lots to do. In fact, that’s where around half of the game – if you’re going for 100% – takes place. Find lots of things, do tasks for citizens, and lots of time trials. Too many time trials, truth be told. They’re not a great deal of fun when you have a million of them.

As usual, I played the lot in co-op with my daughter, and it was a lot of fun. The two of us chipping away at all the hub challenges separately with the odd two-player requirement for some is always great.

LocoRoco Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

It’s been a while since I played this back on the PSP. I noticed it on PSN, with other PSP games PaRappa the Rapper and Patapon for about £3 in total, so picked them up. PaRappa, which was the main reason for buying them, is actually unplayable but luckily this is fine.

It’s a lot easier than I remember. Sure, if you’re going for 100% then yes, it’s tricky, but I didn’t even have any issues on the final level like I did before. Maybe they made it easier in this remaster?

And I say remaster. Apparently it’s just running on a PSP emulator and at a higher resolution during the game. The video sections are poorly upscaled and grainy with black bars, but they don’t really matter.

Sonic Forces (PS4): COMPLETED!

Sonic Forces is an exceptionally bad game. I knew this before I even started, partly because I’d played two different demos in the past, plus I knew it was “like Sonic Generations, only Worse”. I was never going to buy it, but then it was a free PS+ rental. But I was never going to play it, but then I did.

Here is a list of everything that is good about Sonic Forces:

  1. Is it very short

I tried to find a 2 but I’m struggling. I could list everything that is bad about Sonic Forces, but I can do that with one word: Everything.

Special mention, however, could be made for several particularly awful things. Firstly, there’s the fact you can create your own character. Why this is necessary when Sonic games already have a cast of millions of terrible, terrible creatures you could have chosen, I don’t know. What it does here, though, is allow you to have a mute protagonist – referred to only by the name “rookie” – for some but not most of the levels. Every time you finish a level, a billion clothing items (all of which are useless) unlock for you to pointlessly change your character’s outfit in those few levels you don’t play as Sonic.

Oh, it’s Chemical Plant! Only Sonic is microscopic for Some Reason.

Secondly, there’s the inertia and physics. They’re all wrong. Yes, I know it’s not supposed to be realistic, but they don’t work in the game. The worst bit is when you’re playing a “2.5D” section, the way the screen scrolls too much when you make a slight landing alteration, screws up the jump arc. So, if you’re jumping right, but tap left a little, the whole screen moves the opposite way meaning you miss the landing.

Then there’s the fact that you’re waaaaay too small. The Green Hill, Chemical Plant and Death Egg levels especially feel like you’ve been shrunk.

Just look at this mess.

And there’s more! All of the 3D into-the-screen levels are little more than rubbish “autorunner” games. You even tap the shoulder buttons to choose which “lane” you’re in. Several of the bosses are on these autorunner levels too, so they all feel exactly the same.

Finally (well, for this post at least – there are a million more things wrong with it I’ve not mentioned), it’s just not fun. At all. It’s not even worth what I paid for it (which was nothing). At least in Sonic Generations, the “old Sonic” levels were decent, but here they’re few and far between and have the broken inertia thing. Sure, they’re the best bits of the game, but that’s like saying you have a “best bit” when involved in a car accident.

In an attempt to become a Mario game, for some reason your custom character can walljump. But not all the time. Because Unexplained.

Shenmue III (PS4): COMPLETED!

Well, this has been a long time in coming, hasn’t it. Even longer than that, since I stopped playing before Christmas for a while so most eager fans have already completed it. Was I getting bored? No – it’s just a million other games came along and having to turn the PS4 on is so terribly tedious. Why couldn’t this have been on the Switch?

I’m partly serious, but of course I’m very glad we have Shenmue III at all, and I’d have bought whatever system was necessary to play it, if that was what it would have taken. The question is, was is worth the two hundred and seventy Earth pounds I paid for it? The answer, of course, is yes.

As a game, it certainly isn’t worth that amount of money. No game is. But this wasn’t paying to play just any game – this was paying for a game I’ve wanted to play for 18 years to actually get made, and that’s a different thing entirely. So here it is. And it’s exactly what I wanted. With just one issue.

Many people have complained that in terms of mechanics, controls, graphics, voice acting, and so on, Shenmue III is a relic. They’ve not improved anything in the gameplay, whereas other games have moved on. Some have said that it should have played more like Shenmue’s spiritual successor Yakuza. Others said it looks like a Dreamcast game with nicer graphics. To those people I say this: This is Shenmue III and to do it any other way would not be Shenmue III.

I won’t go into the story, events or characters – they have been covered by many better game writers than me. It’s no blockbuster film, in any sense, but it is a valid, seemless, continuation from Shenmue II to the point where the end of that game is the very beginning of this. The story keeps things ticking over, but ultimately the one real thing that we’ve waited all this time to happen… doesn’t. That shouldn’t be a spoiler at this point, by the way, but it’s the only negative thing I really have to say about the game. We now have to wait an unknown amount of time for Shenmue IV, should that ever come to light at all.

It’s difficult to explain why Shenmue III is so good when each of it’s parts – especially these days – is clearly below average. It might be a bit of nostalgia. It could be that despite there being a murder at the heart of it, it’s a gentle, slow-paced game about Ryo Hazuki training his kung-fu, gambling all his money away and (my favourite bit) hunting down fat chickens hidden in all the shops.

If you were never a fan of the games, you won’t enjoy this. But if you were a fan, Shenmue III should be both exactly what you were expecting, and exactly what you wanted.

Wattam (PS4): COMPLETED!

From the possibly damaged brain of the guy who brought you the beautiful nonsense that was Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy, is Wattam. Presumably it is called Wattam because when you see it for the first time, you say “what? erm”.

The plot is that everything has exploded and gone away and you, as a lonely square mayor has to bring everything back. And you do this by making trees eat your friends and turning them into fruit, by making everyone cry using an onion, and by getting a disembodied mouth to eat everyone, turn them into poos, then you flush those poos in a toilet (which you control) and then they turn into gold poos and then you have to stack the gold poos on top of each other so they’re as tall as a giant bowling pin, then you plant an acorn and everyone holds hands and then you take your hat off and explode..

Just in case it wasn’t baffling enough, some of the characters speak Korean, Russian and Japanese.

That’s right. The game makes even less sense than Noby Noby Boy and Katamari.

It has clunky controls and a clunky camera just like its predecessors, it has bizarre music like its predecessors, and against all odds the weirdness actually means it’s a lot of fun, also like its predecessors.

Yeah, it’s yet another one of those games where you have to control giant face parts and assemble them on a giant face while the giant face runs around and you have to find various ways to fight it, including throwing tobiko sushi babies at it. A crowded genre, for sure.

Heavy Rain (PS4): COMPLETED!

Never before has a game made me so angry.

It’s not the sort of game I’d ever normally consider playing, and I didn’t know that much about it apart from that it was by David Cage (which itself meant very little as I’ve never played a Cage game) and involved a murder story. I thought it was a bit like one of the Telltale Games adventures, but more “cinematic”. But, coerced by two people I considered, until this point, as friends, I played it.

I should point out that as I type, I am still very angry about this game. A game which is now the worst game I have ever played. And oh boy have I played some crap. This post will be full of spoilers, which frankly you should think of in the same way your parents tell you not to eat berries from the garden.

Heavy Rain’s plot is this: someone is kidnapping children, drowning them in rainwater, and dumping their bodies. You, as in, the four different characters you play as throughout the game, are trying to find out who the killer is. One of these characters, Ethan, is especially invested in finding out because his son Shaun has just been kidnapped and he’s been left a series of ridiculous and Saw-like challenges to prove his love for his son and potentially save him before he drowns.

I should try to get the positive points out before I vomit bile onto the page. There are some excellent toilets, and a lot of them, in Heavy Rain. Most locations in the game have at least one, and you can actually use them too. The plot would also make a good film. That’s it. Two things.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Heavy Rain gets it wrong because it gets so many things wrong. Each thing individually is, for the most part, relatively minor but they’re so damn numerous that it’s just a writhing mess of broken game elements thrown at a wall like over-salted porridge. Let’s start with the controls.

The controls are bloody awful.

Let us imagine you’re the person who though the best parts of Shenmue were the QTEs. But you didn’t just love them, you fantasised about them. You made up stories about how you wooed them, married them, and had children with them. Grew old with them. You ate and breathed ever more fanciful QTEs where using your Playstation controller became more like a game of Zen Twister, embellishing button presses with stick flicking and pad flailing. As if Dragon’s Lair and Wii Sports had been involved in a matter transporter incident and the resulting Brundlefly was how David Cage decreed every action sequence was to be played out.

But the QTEs had bled out into the rest of the game. You’d not just be required to press X to open a door any more. No, you need to perform a hadouken instead. Every button, switch, cupboard. Every time you stand up, check your pockets, put your glasses on. Each and every time you answer your phone or look in a mirror. They’re all mini-QTEs. Games have evolved to the point where you just press a button to activate things for a reason. Adding nonsense complexity, especially when often the button prompt on the screen isn’t, well, even on the screen – at least long enough or in a visible way – is like tying your own shoelaces together. Why are you making it more difficult to walk? It isn’t making the game more interactive or realistic, it’s just reminding the player that this is a stupid game and you have to do stupid game things.

And at least in Shenmue if you fail a QTE sequence, you get to try again. Here, if you fail in certain places, you change the ending of the game. People die. You might die. I mean, in real life. There’s a lot of flailing. That’d can’t be good for you.

Yes. Hold “down” on the right analogue stick in order to pick UP a flower. You idiots.

That isn’t the only issue with the controls. No, the game also suffers from the same tank controls that died years ago with the original Resident Evil games. A control system which was borne partly from the lack of two analogue sticks and semi-static camera angles, and yet here is Heavy Rain channelling it again. You have times were you can’t change direction, or it changes for you, or you move out of one room into another but then the camera changes and you find yourself spinning around to walk back out again by accident. The lack of fine-tuning on your movements means it’s all too easy to move slightly past something you want to interact with then have to fight the controller to turn around and get into the correct position.

These issues would be enough to sink any game, but the controls and camera are just the tip of the iceberg. Although as we know just the tip of an iceberg sank the Titanic so you can see how bad this is going to be already.

I have played many games with serious flaws that have been worth it overall because of either the story or the sense of achievement. The need to find out who the Origami Killer is perhaps pushed me to complete Heavy Rain, but even that carrot wasn’t really enough. I had to dig deep to fight the urge to just stop and look up the ending, so perhaps the real reason I completed it was because I just didn’t want to cheat. It wasn’t worth it.

You see, the game is full of plot holes, contradictions and things that make no sense to the story. Characters do things when there is no reason to do them. They jump to conclusions when there is no evidence – or worse, when there is evidence but that particular character isn’t party to it but acts like they are. For example, when Madison is told who the killer is, she is shocked even though she has no idea that person even exists. In fact, even the killer is unaware he is the killer, because although it’s made clear that he is, you play as him and you didn’t know.

Some more “fun holes”:

  • The killer plants a car in a garage for Ethan to pick up. The car has been there for two years. In the glove box is a video showing Ethan’s son from just a few hours previously.
  • How did the gun get through the metal detector into the lockers?
  • Did the killer follow Ethan around constantly waiting for Ethan to have one of his blackouts? He’d have to in order to kidnap his son.
  • When the killer killed the antiques dealer, why did he call the police?
  • What happened to Scott’s asthma? After an hour it vanishes forever.
  • If Ethan isn’t the killer, why does he end up in the street where the real killer used to hang out, why does he dream about being the killer, and why does he “wake up” with origami in his hand?
  • How did Madison know to call Jayden, when until then she wasn’t even aware of his existence?

There are more. Hundreds of things, perhaps. I have a list.

On the subject of Jayden, I have to mention his magic FBI gear. For a game which is based completely in reality with no “magic”, science fiction or supernatural elements, Jayden’s See Everything sunglasses and You Can Really Feel the DNA glove are completely out of place.

This bit is the climax of Jayden’s ridiculous chase through an indoor market which involves running on ice and having chickens thrown at you. Because it’s STUPID.

But as Jimmy Cricket would say, come here, there’s more. Oh so much more.

I could talk for paragraphs about the woeful animation. Look, I understand this was originally a PS3 title and things were a little different then, but it was supposed to be one of the selling points of the game. Everyone walks like they have a limp. They look at things like they’re snapping their spine. They wave their arms around like Gerry Anderson is in control of their upper bodies. There’s a sex scene between Ethan and Madison (which also doesn’t make sense, but I’ll leave that) which is like Ken and Barbie mashing their faces and bodies together. That’s not how people kiss, David. All open mouthed like they’re trying to eat each other’s jaws.

And speaking of Madison, just… what? When we’re introduced to her in her vest and knickers because she’s a woman, she’s in the middle of a nightmare where she is being chased around her utterly huge apartment by two burglars? Assassins? Who knows. Then she wakes up. And aside from a mention of insomnia later on this is never mentioned or expanded on ever again. Also, again because she is a woman, she seems to get undressed a lot. Worse, even though all the male characters can use the toilets in the game, can she? Of course not.

  • Why didn’t the police investigate the people that Scott killed in the mansion?
  • Why didn’t the police investigate the ex-doctor that Madison killed?
  • Why didn’t the police investigate the father than Ethan killed?

The latter of these would normally have bothered me. In that, I had to decide to kill this guy or not. I’m usually pretty moralistic in games, to the point where even if it makes the game harder I’ll try to spare the life of people who don’t deserve to die. I was in knots trying not to kill the girlfriend in the original Prey, for example. But here, although I technically had the choice, I just wanted the easiest route to the end of the game and didn’t even pause for thought. Bang, through the head, move on. So much for the game wanting to trigger emotions and having to make difficult decisions – all overwritten by just the need to have the game over and done with.

Ethan has a panic attack in a crowd because of the trauma caused by the death of his first kid. Which is actually a good idea in the game. But then immediately afterwards he manages to get a gun through a metal detector somehow because Video Games.

Other supposedly difficult to deal with scenarios included the other trials for Ethan like chopping off a finger and drinking the poison. The game had made me so disinterested in such unbelievable characters in such contrived and impossible situations that I didn’t care in the slightest. Ethan might have a wobble about My Son or My Finger but frankly I couldn’t give a toss at that point and Antoinette’d that digit immediately. The game’s first hour goes out of its way to explain what a boring guy Ethan is anyway, what with it basically being a Grand Designs style tour of his house. Then his bird dies for no reason. Then his other son, Jason, also dies for no reason. It’s rubbish.

The almighty problem with the game, however, is undoubtedly the reveal of who the killer is. It doesn’t make any sense to be Scott. If it was better written, then of course it could have made sense, but it feels like they’d intended the killer to be someone else and changed it. Perhaps depending on your choices, more than one killer would be possible. But no, they chose Scott. Scott who, in the game, is 40, and 44, and 48. Scott who murders a man while you’re playing as Scott, only somehow you don’t see it happen. Scott who, when you “think” by pressing L2, ponders who the killer is. Scott who, for no reason at all, has a list of subscribers for some origami magazine which only serves to incriminate himself. Scott who owns a car with a pull-out cigarette lighter even though that particular model car pre-dates the invention of the pull-out cigarette lighter by 7 years. Scott who visits Gordi knowing it will endanger his own life in doing so, to find out if Gordi is the killer, even though Scott knows who the killer is BECAUSE THE KILLER IS SCOTT. Jesus Christ.

All of this, and so much more, made me very angry. Angry I’ve wasted so many hours playing this crap. Angry I’ve been duped into playing it in the first place. Angry that the developers think me so stupid I wouldn’t notice everything wrong with this. Angry at myself that I didn’t just stop after a couple of hours and read the Wikipedia entry instead. Angry that I discovered that Omikron: The Nomad Soul is also by Quantic Dream and I’ve always wanted to play that because it has Bowie in it, but now I can’t because Heavy Rain has ruined it. That’s right – it’s so bad that it has affected how good other games are.

It’s a good job it rains because otherwise the killer can’t do his killings. Clearly he can control the weather. Also, heavy rain would actually mean more rain in two hours than falls in the entirety of the game over several days, so even the game’s title is stupid.

I urge you to never play this game. Just don’t. Even if you want to play a bad game because it’ll be funny, this is not the game for you. Go and play Gynophobia or Bad Rats or something instead. David Cage is clearly a man who would be able to make a good film or perhaps a TV series, but instead he’s shoehorning a film plot into a poorly realised interactive “experience” where the flaws shine like beacons and the mechanics detract from the story. If you want to make a game more like a film, just make a bloody film. Stop playing his games and maybe he’ll go away and do that instead.

I am still very angry.

Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones (PS4): COMPLETED!

After a little time away playing other stuff, I went back to The Most Impressive Game this week to do some of the DLC. I’d previously put maybe an hour or two into The Hidden Ones, but now I’ve finished it off.

It’s more of the same, really. That’s not a complaint, just a fact. And it’s all I wanted, actually. It feels a bit rougher, with less impressive terrain and a lot more places where they seem to have forgotten about the rock formation geometry (translation: some of the cliffs have holes in them), but it was just as fun as the rest of the game.