The Last of Us Ep. 6 – “Kin” Thoughts & Impressions

We are on borrowed time. The sins of Kansas City are following our heroes and the remaining run time of the show. Craig and crew are beginning to step on the gas as the show tries to wrap up the entire narrative of the game in one season.

And yet, we get a slow build up for this episode and are plopped straight into The Last of Us Part II with a full-blown recreation of Jackson and plenty of references to boot. It was arguably the most fan-service of the entire season so far and it was handled in a deft manner. This was a logical substitution for the gameplay heavy dam section of the game. And, assuming the set is still there or in pieces somewhere, they can reuse it in season two.

Joel continues to become a wholly new incarnation on HBO. I want to stress I am glad there are deviations from the game. The show should stand alongside the original. But man, this Joel is not being set up for events to come the same way. I worry for future pay offs and how they will feel. Relationships feel rushed and time feels short. Knowing where the show is going is hurting being in the moment. I wonder if people new to The Last of Us will look back and feel the imbalance and rush I sense now. 

We also witnessed what I believe to be the worst deviation by far. Non-players have no idea what they are missing. The whole college lab experience is truncated to a five minute excursion with no time for tension to even be established. Joel’s injury is transformed into a stab wound by a Hunter, rather than the impalement he suffers in the game. Comparing the show to the game, it’s no contest which scene is superior.

The director of the episode, Jasmila Žbanić, did an interview with Variety on the episode and they asked about this change. Here was her response:

I got it in the script, and I really liked it because it was more subtle. Ellie thinks they made it, and then it’s a shock. Otherwise it would be immediately over. I really liked how Craig wrote it. They travel, she’s hopeful, they go on together — and then it’s a shock.

I am going to go out on a branch and guess that Žbanić hasn’t played the game, because the parts she likes happen in the game. 

The whole slinking out of the University happens in one cut to a back door by a bush. The tension of escape has zero time to mount. We blink and Joel is stabbed, then our duo ride away with Ellie blindly popping off shots. The game has tension is spades. The escape, the stumble, the escape post-fall, all while Ellie helps and saves Joel’s life. They ride off and the he falls, just like the show. 

Not only is the raw shock value dropped, but Ellie is robbed of development. Her capabilities in combat are solid. The bond between the two is deepened further in these life and death situations. The show strips that away as Ellie is incapable of even hitting an enemy during their mad dash away. The most shocking thing from this episode as that they made this change.

And why make it? Time. A two-parter in Kansas City and tons of Jackson time forces the creators hands to cut more and more of the back half of the game. With this weekend’s episode focusing on the DLC Left Behind, we are naturally getting less time with Joel and Ellie. Their bond is what The Last of Us is built off of and I can’t help but feel like the connection is not being enriched on-screen. As a fan, it is a frustrating loss, but I guess the masses just don’t know what they are missing. Ignorance is bliss. 

This seems to be the harshest I’ve been on the show to date. The episode wasn’t all frustration. There were stand out moments, but I felt like they detracted from my through line theme in the review. That’s what this list of observations is for; fleshing out the little things that I picked up on in the episode.

  • That dog must not be very good at its job. If a cordyceps detector can identify Ellie is sick and this dog always knows when someone is infected, then that doggo should have let loose on Ellie. Not that I wanted that to happen, but I was scratching my head.
  • Joel’s PTSD continues to be built upon and we finally get a picture of what the team was building toward. Chest pains become frequent (heck, they may have debuted in this episode, I forget if they were in Episode 5). Joel freezes up with the dog. This all mounts to the heart-to-heart Joel has with Tommy where he reveals his fear about being a failure and an inadequate protector. This was touching and felt perfect for this performance. It feels reminiscent of the opening scene in Part II, but that Joel comes from a place of righteousness and power.
  • Two major characters from Part II have appeared! Both Dina and the horse Shimmer. I popped off for Shimmer. Dina was not named, but it was clearly supposed to be her. And that casting has made it clear to me that the actresses need to age up a bit if they are going to handle the, uh, let’s say activities of Part II. I feel like season two is going to be lots of world building and perhaps unseen or reshuffled moments from the sequel.
  • There were some excellent jokes in this episode. I was partial to Tommy’s communist realization and Joel’s history lesson on contractors.
  • Maria is pregnant. The implications of this for future seasons is substantial. Serious potential there.
  • They cut one of the best lines from the game. Joel’s classic “you’re on mighty thin ice” was no where to be seen or heard in his confrontation with Ellie. Further proof of a much slower to anger Joel. 
  • Speaking of that argument scene, the shots are reversed from the game. A small observation, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. 
  • I wonder when Ashley Johnson’s birth scene is going to happen. My guess is either next week or the finale. Next week makes less sense, because Ellie would have no memory of her birth. Perhaps Marlene shows up at the end in some manner. I wager a Marlene flashback in the finale is more logical, but that would rob the duo of even more time.

Playing with PS VR2 for the First Time

Last night, I streamed setting up and playing my new PlayStation VR2 headset for the first time. I don’t always link to my live streams here, but this one felt substantial enough to share. Minus the user error of forgetting there is a power button on the headset, the setup process is so simple. One cable1 and boom, you are off to the races. Which, I was with Gran Turismo 7. The sense of presence and speed is unlike any game I have ever played. It absolutely blew my mind. I had a blast hopping around games. If you are at all curious about PS VR2, I think my stream is worth a watch. I hope you enjoy!

1. I did buy a 3′ USB-C extension cable, which seems to be the max length you can add on to the 14.5′ cord coming out of the headset itself.

Chapter Select: Season 5, Episode 4 – Resident Evil 2

Episode art generated by DALL-E 2 with the following prompt written by Max Roberts & Logan Moore - "police station in the middle of a busy city at night where a semitruck flipped outside that is surrounded by zombies and fire diorama"
Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts & Logan Moore

Thud, thud, thud…Rookie cop Max Roberts and college dropout Logan Moore team up with motorcycle racer Ricky Frech to skulk around a disheveled police station. Did Capcom’s plan for bigger and better sequels pay off or did this adventure in Raccoon City bite off more than it can chew?

Download (46MB) — Episode Transcript

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Resident Evil 2

Metacritic – 89/100 and 91/100

This episode was originally recorded on January 21, 2023.


Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Ricky’s Twitter @RickyFrech

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts & Logan Moore.

John Linneman on GT7 and RE8 in VR

A friend shared with me some threads that Digital Foundry’s John Linneman was posting about Gran Turismo 7 and Resident Evil Village on PlayStation VR2.1 They way John was talking about both games makes me all the more surprised that PlayStation did not find a way to provide these games to press for the initial review embargo. Perhaps it was a combination of not being quite ready and wanting to have a rollout of positive game impressions during the launch period.

OK, GT7 in VR is unbelievable. One small detail that literally caught my eye – the HDR glare of headlights in your mirrors during night races. It’s bright to the point where it closely resembles reality in a similar situation. I’ve never seen anything quite like this in a game.

They really nailed the world scale in this. It just feels natural. I keep reaching for the wheel as visible through the headset when the racing wheel I’m using is, in fact, slightly smaller. This is one of the most immersive VR experiences I’ve encountered to date.

Also, steep corners and hills, such as at Laguna Seca, suddenly feel towering. I legit felt my stomach drop as if riding a rollercoaster when I first tackled that hill. Plus, you can see your helmet reflect in the steering wheel’s metallic pieces as you move your head around.

This sounds so unbelievably lifelike. I was streaming GT7 last week in preparation of PS VR2. The simple notion of being able to turn your head to look at traffic or look ahead while riding a tight line in a turn should be transformative for races. John has me looking at steering wheels again. Lord help me.

I mean, we are talking about helmet reflections, headlight HDR, and proper scale of hills and valleys. I’ve never experienced this in VR. This sounds transformative.

Well, RE Village VR is also tremendous. Proper black levels really elevate the tension. It looks super impressive in VR and the completely reworked interface brings it closer to something like HL Alyx. It’s a separate mode with its own saves for a reason but it’s brilliant.

The one weird caveat with Village are the cutscenes – they keep the original camera motion and it’s clear they weren’t made for VR so I suspect some might get motion sickness from it.

I noticed the cutscene camera movement in the previous trailers. I recall a scene where one of the vampire daughters drags you away and thinking that had some motion sickness potential, since you are not lying down. I’ve curious to see how I will feel.

The more important part is the true blacks and John’s comparison to Half-Life: Alyx. I was talking with Logan yesterday and he remarked how Alyx is still the landmark, must-play VR game: He was talking about how slow marquee VR game development is slowed. My counterpoint was that I think Alyx may have new games entering its hallowed halls with both Village and GT7. If John’s impressions are any indication, I think VR on the whole has two new must plays, experience defining games on its hands (head?).

1. Don’t worry, I am and have been sticking with my departure from Twitter. I’ve actually enjoyed my time away for the most part. Some days I wish I could scroll, but most of the time I feel free. I have noticed some unhealthy trends to fill that time—more Discord and YouTube—but I have been reading and writing more. And I have certainly spent more time focus on and playing with my daughter. I consider this decision a major, major win.

Resident Evil 4 Remake VR Development has Begun

Capcom via Twitter, Tweet #1 and Tweet #2, translated via Google Translate

『バイオハザード RE:4』のVRモードが開発スタート!

『バイオハザード RE:4』のVRモードはPlayStation5/PlayStationVR2向けの無料DLCとして配信される予定です。

VR mode of “Resident Evil RE: 4” has started development!
Stay tuned for more details!

VR mode of “Resident Evil RE: 4” will be distributed as free DLC for PlayStation5 / PlayStationVR2.

Feels both timely and strange to make this announcement. Resident Evil Village for PS VR2 just launched alongside the headset, so that makes sense to remind people that Resident Evil 4‘s remake will have some form of PS VR2 support as well. Capcom is roughly one month from RE4‘s release, so this indicates that the VR mode is further off.

But why is development starting now? This makes me wonder when Capcom and PlayStation made the deal to add VR to the game. Capcom has also yet detail what this mode is. Many, including myself, hope it is the entire game; just like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Resident Evil Village, but they have not outright confirmed that hope. I was hopeful that we’d see this mode in action at the State of Play tomorrow, but if development just started, then I doubt it.

I would have thought the mode would have been developed alongside the game, rather than at the end of its base development.

I still cannot believe that Capcom is giving these VR versions away for free with the base game to PS VR owners. What remarkable goodwill to garner with fans/consumers. I wonder how much Sony pays Capcom for these exclusives. These are huge second-party exclusives for the platform. VR is the method I prefer to play Resident Evil in and I will definitely be tackling Village with my PS VR2 for Chapter Select.

Polymega App Announced

Introducing Polymega App by Polymega via Chris Scullion at Video Games Chronicle

This is the intuitive Polymega console experience, soon to be available as a free downloadable app that you can use on all of your devices. Share your collection, game states, installs, and more to the Cloud and never lose your progress ever again.

Using any standard disc drive, you can use Polymega App to play, install, and manage legacy games from physical media on your device…

So why buy a Polymega console?

We know that many new computers do not include disc drives, and they certainly don’t have cartridge ports! Polymega® Remix is the latest member of the Polymega hardware family, and with it you can play CD and Cartridge games on your PC and other devices using Polymega App! It looks and works just like Polymega, except it connects via USB to your device, and you use Polymega App to control it — simple as that! It’s compatible with the full suite of Polymega Element Module Sets, and starts at just $149 USD. More details coming soon.

This sounds like a fusion of a RetroN 5 with all its cartridge slots and the GB Operator. Let the computer and software handle the emulation and the physical hardware just dump the game as a ROM. No picture was shown, but it could be a promising all-in-one solution for classic consoles—both disc-based and cartridge-based. Please include the N64. Heck, throw in any disc console that doesn’t use Blu-Ray discs. Give people a sleek, modern, convenient way to back up there physical collection.

State of Play Incoming

New State of Play arrives Thursday, featuring Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League by Brett Elston for the PlayStation Blog

State of Play returns with its first show of 2023! Get ready for new looks at some anticipated games from our third-party partners, as well as a first glimpse at five PlayStation VR2 games set to arrive later this year. Then, settle in for more than 15 minutes of all-new gameplay details and updates on Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, the next game from Rocksteady Studios.

The State of Play is this Thursday at 4:00 PM EST. PlayStation Japan reports that the video presentation will be around 45 minutes and feature 16 games. Subtract the five PS VR2 titles and Suicide Squad and we have 10 mystery titles that should fill between 20 and 30 minutes.1 I’d wager on Final Fantasy XVI getting mentioned again, I’d love first-party. Perhaps we will finally see Naughty Dog’s “Factions,” but I suspect that will be shown no sooner than The Last of Us‘ 10-year anniversary.

Suicide Squad needs a killer demo. I’m not the only person hesitant about a shooty-shooter super hero game set in the legendary Arkham-verse by Rocksteady. I don’t doubt the dev team’s prowess, but I am cautious of the multiplayer, battle pass approach this game appears to be taking. I want to be excited about this one, but I’m struggling.

PS VR2 getting five new games announced right after launch day is excellent. And they are all supposed to launch this year. I bet we see Firewall Ultra. It could be more ports or enhanced versions, but I am hoping for at least one PlayStation Studios title to be revealed. And, of course, Half-Life: Alyx. These announcements could be the cherry on top of launch week.

1. I suppose those mystery games could take less time, but I’m not betting that five PS VR2 games will take more than 10 minutes to reveal and advertise. Prove me wrong Sony!

Metroid Prime Remastered Surprises

Last week’s Nintendo Direct was a solid one. Phil Summers and I talked it through on The Max Frequency Podcast last week, but I wanted to whip up a post about my favorite bounty hunter’s return. It feels good to get this long-standing rumor out into the open. Yet, it still felt surprising in some ways. The shadow drop the day of the Direct was the biggest of the bunch, with the physical release next week.

I was happy to see Retro at the helm. This is their first release since Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Switch in 2018. It’s technically their first “new” game since Frozen Ape hit the Wii U in 2014; nearly a decade! Like I said on the show, someone has to tell the story of Retro Studios some day.

I was bummed to hear that the original credits are not represented in the game, leaving out that exceptional development team. It was also interesting to learn that there were nine support studios that worked on the remaster.1 Only two of them have updated their sites with the news that they worked on the game (Airship Interactive and Mineloader). A lot of these teams also worked on Halo Infinite, which speaks more to the state of that game than Prime. It’s no wonder this game leaked.

And of course, the best bit of coverage on the game is Digital Foundry’s analysis. A beautiful showcase of the remastered assets and game performance. Interesting to see 900p be the resolution docked, but I am happy to hear that the framerate is stable. Metroid Prime has been stuck on the GameCube and Wii/Wii U for years now. With the digital version of the Trilogy going away, it’s nice to have the game brought forward into the modern era. I hope Echoes and Corruption get similar treatment, but the rumor mill says otherwise.

1. The studios were Airship Images Limited (characters and hair), Atomhawk Design, CGBot, Gamesim Inc, Iron Galaxy Studio, Liquid Development, Original Force LTD, Shanghai Mineloader Digital Technology (lots of stuff), and Zombot Studio.

The Last of Us Ep. 5 – “Endure and Survive” Thoughts & Impressions

Our time in Kansas City has come to an end with the conclusion of what may be the season’s only two part story. Last week’s episode had disappointment by way of attempts at humanizing the raiders dubbed Hunters. We got more of that, which continued to fall flat, but not before we are introduced to the brother duo of Henry and Sam.

The boys get a twenty-ish minute flashback that gives their struggle some context. We see the aftermath of liberating the quarantine zone, which comes off far more like a party than pillaging. It actually disconnected me from the setting until we saw a body dragged through the streets with knifes jutting out of its chest. The whiplash I experienced here threw me off the Hunters even more.

Henry and Sam are tweaked. Both come are younger than their in-game counter parts, and Sam is also deaf, which isn’t from the source. Henry is less experienced, but swift, smart, and bold, if not rash. When the brothers’ supplies run low, Henry prepares to try and leave the city. He witnesses Joel’s laundry mat encounter and knows that he could be their savior.

We then get this melding of the sewers and Pittsburgh as the four fugitives skulk their way through the tunnels of Kansas City. Shifting to television, most gameplay chunks are stripped away (except for two choice moments later in the episode). One cut was the sewer encounters and Ish’s community. The underground threat is established by Henry, but the tunnels are clear for the crew. We get no separation of Joel and Ellie and learn little of the horrors that happened down below the surface. It’s a scene that is robbed – partially if you know what you are missing – but the foursome is robbed of any real time to grow.

They try with underground soccer and brooding side conversations, but there just isn’t enough time for the relationships to take root. Cutting Sam’s age down by five years (from 13 to 8) feels like a cheap method of nixing the need for growth. Ellie feels more like a caretaker than a friend to Sam. Henry only opens up about his failures and dedication to his brother. We don’t see the motorcycle daydreaming, barbecue loving man. With their fate sealed by the end of the episode, they are gone just as swiftly as they appeared. I wish they could have been introduced last week more fully. The cuts from the game are felt this week in a way I think impacts both players and newcomers. There just isn’t enough time to even mourn Sam and Henry.

On the Hunter side of things, Kathleen was introduced last week, but I feel like the show really struggled to give her humanity. They tried with the childhood bedroom (which was far more clean and intact than I would have expected), but the act of “tell don’t show” falls flat here.1 Her older brother, who led the resistance, is too ethereal. The audience is painting up pictures of an infallible leader as the characters reminisce, including Henry. These somber images fail to engage the audience emotionally though. The driving force behind Kathleen is dead and empty, presumably just like her brother is now.

The best part of the episode, turns out, was the most gamified part of the show to date. The house sniper and hoard are put on full display. This is the biggest set piece in the show so far and HBO went all out. We see Joel flank a sniper with deft observation and assertion. Joel asking the man to just walk away gives the audience a peek at the softness inside. His mask of firmness falls away revealing an exhausted man, tired of killing others.

The victory against the sniper is short lived as Kathleen and her goons roll up with the infamous “Run” truck from the game, which doesn’t last very long as Joel caps the driver. This gives Kathleen a moment for her obsession to evolve into full-blown evil as she intends to kill a deaf eight-year-old boy, a fourteen-year old girl, and Henry: Proof of just how far gone she is, how unwaveringly loyal her crew is, and establishes that the true horror is humanity.

Kathleen never gets to go for broke though, as the truck collapses into the earth and unleashes the hoard of Infected that were forced underground years ago, according to Henry. This is a great concept realized. The Bloater emerges like a mutated nightmare, leading waves of Clickers and Runners. The scariest creature of the bunch though was the child-Clicker that pursues Ellie inside a locked mini van. It’s a path the games have never gone down, and it pays off in spades here as tragic and horrifying. It’s this kid, likely between the ages of eight and fourteen, that ends up murdering Kathleen.

Safe in a motel, we are treated to a scene between Ellie and Sam. This is where Sam’s age difference is most effective. The fear of turning into a monster takes hold as he confides in his new friend. Ellie doesn’t go tell the others or act scared. She pivots into that caretaker mode and offers Sam hope. She reveals her immunity and promises her blood is a cure of sorts. She immediately cuts open her hand and presses the blood into Sam’s wound. She promises to stay up with Sam as he drifts off to sleep, fear combated with hope.

It’s a remarkable scene, one that shows how selfless Ellie can be. She is adamant about helping people. This is groundwork done right. I think even Ellie believes her own lie a bit, as she stays (somewhat) true to her word and stays with Sam all night. The hopeful relief on her face in the morning light followed by fear crashing down upon her is gripping.

The rest of the scene plays out like the game. We see the burial mentioned in the game, but more importantly, we see Ellie act a little bit like Joel. She’s quiet, hurt, and wants to leave immediately. She has no desire to talk about the morning. Best to get along and forget, at least for the time being. Are more seeds being planted here? If so, what fruit will they bare?

As we march off into the back half of the season, I wonder what payoffs we’ll see come to light. This entire season was written without season two being locked in. This had to stand alone, if the studios said no—not unlike the original game. The writers and directors have deviated bit by bit, week by week. As we enter the part of the season for harvest, I wonder what Joel will look like at the end. How will Ellie behave during the trials to come? There are only four more episodes left. It’s due time for HBO to reap what they have sown.

What an episode filled with and surrounded by contrast. Lots of highs and lows, which I hope I articulated above. I really enjoyed the action focus and haven’t stopped thinking about that kid Clicker all week. As the show goes in to the Fall and Winter seasons, I am curious to see what the reception will be to what’s on deck. It’s cultural moments like these that make me miss Twitter. C’est la vie. Before I go, here are a few observations from the episode that didn’t make the cut above.

  • I mentioned Henry’s lack of experience above. It’s interesting to have him never kill before. It seems like he’s lived in KC the entire time too. I suppose that makes his betrayal sting all the more. My big takeaway though was the term they used for snitch—a collaborator. Joel knew this term immediately. It gives the QZs and world a more connected feeling. This term has risen up socially to mean a snitch to FEDRA. Subtle, linguistic world building.
  • The Ish and Danny art is straight from the game. The story, not so much. That room is a spot-on recreation of the room with all the Stalkers in it. Ish was robbed in the show. Such a good side story, that I know could have never been fully explored in the TV show. I would have traded Kansas City for a Tunnels/Sewer two parter. Definitely would have given Sam and Henry more time to develop.
  • Obviously, the best part of the episode was Perry (aka Tommy from the games) getting the iconic Bloater kill done to him. What a way to end a cameo. RIP. 😬

1. This little scene also implies that Kathleen and her family have lived in Kansas City since before the outbreak. They’ve somehow maintained living in their original home, or at least access to it. I like the concept of people that stayed put during the outbreak, especially in contrast to our heroes who are traveling across the country.

PlayStation VR2 Review Round-Up

Turns out the word on the street was one day off, but the embargo for PS VR2 has been lifted. Reviews have hit the web. I thought I’d share what I read and watched, along with some observations.

The Hardware

Video Games Chronicle’s review by Jordan Middler

While the MetaQuestPro can boast its wirelessness, the selling point for PSVR 2 is clear, you simply can’t get VR performance that’s this good on a PC, for this price.

This is the trade-off between said wirelessness and wired VR. When factoring in the $500 price of a disc-based PS5, PS VR2 still comes in cheaper than a primo gaming PC and comparable headset. That’s a trade-off I’m willing to make, but the convenience of wireless VR is undeniable.

Speaking of PCs, the PS VR2 is not compatible with those towers of power. It is possible that Sony will unlock this type of support, but never bank on non-promised features to come to market. I do believe Sony will add it someday, because of their recent push into that market. The headset is a leader in that space from a technical perspective, but who knows how long that lead will stay. Tom Warren from The Verge feels the same way:

I’m hopeful that someone might get it working eventually, in much the same way that PSVR has been modded to work on PC. It would be far better if Sony officially supported it, though, particularly with its recent PlayStation PC push. Official support just isn’t there yet, and there’s no sign Sony will ever do it.

The Verge’s review team (Sean Hollister, Adi Robertson, and the aforementioned Tom Warren) also had an issue maintaining the crystal clear sweet spot in VR, something I haven’t come across in other reviews.

…we keep finding ourselves adjusting our headsets to stay in the tiny sweet spot where the lenses are clear. It’s way smaller than the sweet spot than the original PSVR, smaller than the Oculus Quest 2, and unless we cinched down tight, the slight amount of sag at the front of the headset was enough to push our eyes into a blurrier region of the lens.

John Linneman of Digital Foundry (here’s DF’s written review) doesn’t mention this sweet spot issue at all, praising the visual clarity and comfort.

PS VR2 has a rated field of view of [110] degrees. It’s much wider than Oculus Quest and the original PSVR but not quite on par with the Valve Index or Vive Pro 2. However, in practice, it crosses that important line between looking through a porthole and having a full view of the action. You’ll notice the left and right edges of the screens, like most headsets, but vertical visibility is nearly perfect. It instantly feels more engaging and immersive.

John is talking about the display here and not potential headset sag, but I would think John would mention a consistent impact to the visuals.

The Verge makes eye-tracking sound as dope and transformative as I hoped.

Call of the Mountain makes a great case for eye tracking, though. The game supports foveated rendering, which makes everything in front of you look sharp while reducing computing load by lowering the resolution elsewhere. More obviously, you can select dialog choices with characters by simply looking at an option and hitting a face button instead of swiping around with an analog wheel. It’s so seamless that I almost forgot I was doing it sometimes — and I never want to go back.

There was one question on each critic’s minds. Heck, The Verge opens with it.

But we also agree there’s a big, familiar question mark hanging over the PSVR 2. Will it have the games?

The Games

My biggest takeaway from these reviews was the small slate of games provided for review. It looks like press had access to roughly six or so games: Horizon Call of the Mountain, Moss Book I & II, Rez Infinite, Tetris Effect: Connected, Song in the Smoke Rekindled, and Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge – Enhanced Edition. The Verge seems to also have had access to Tentacular, What the Bat?, and Cosmonious High.

Those familiar with VR will recognize that all of those, except for Call of the Mountain, are ports. There’s nothing wrong with ports, especially for some of VR’s best, but I am surprised Sony did not include Gran Turismo 7 or work with Capcom to provide Resident Evil Village. Both are launch games that I believe will be fantastic. Sure, both are new VR modes for existing games, but they are exclusive to PS VR. The Verge picked up on this too.

But we’re not quite seeing it yet — partly because the overwhelming majority of Sony’s launch lineup are ports from other VR headsets and partly because Sony didn’t include some of its most intriguing launch games with our review units.

Middler calls out the repetition VR players are signing up for with PS VR2’s launch.

The software library at launch is deep, with many of the best VR titles ever released, such as Tetris Effect, Rez Infinite, No Man’s Sky, and other virtual staples joining the roster soon, but if you’re already a VR devotee, there’s a chance you’ve played these on another headset. For those new to the virtual reality ecosystem, however, it’s a very strong, if somewhat dated, start.

Linneman chose to focus on what this slate of back catalog titles shows off in the new headset.

Rez Infinite makes a return with an updated version for PSVR2. This is a fantastic showcase for the new HDR capabilities and controls possible with the new hardware. The contrast is perfect and colours highlights are far brighter than any VR headset I’ve used. The haptics are used to enhance the experience while the controllers can be used to aim using your hands. Or you can opt for eye or head tracking targeting making it very flexible.

Moss Book 1 and 2 have been updated for PSVR2 – this game has you sitting within various dioramas while controlling your character and serves as a great demonstration for the increased pixel count in the headset. If you try Moss on the original PSVR then switch to PSVR2, the leap in quality is genuinely surprising.

Games are vital for any new hardware to succeed. There are some promising games on the horizon: Firewall Ultra and whatever Resident Evil 4‘s VR1 support is come to mind. My biggest hope is that Sony keeps the exclusive train chugging. Give us more first-party experiences and woo developer partners to support PS VR2. I hope this summer offers a picture at PS VR2’s future after being on the market for 3-5 months.

At embargo, PlayStation VR2 sounds technologically impressive and immersive. The concern for the console’s library looms over the launch, but I remain as optimistic as ever. Perhaps I am too soft on Sony or maybe I am trying to justify my purchase, but I believe in VR and this particular hardware.r We’ll see if my belief pans out when I get my own headset next week.2

1. IGN seems to think this is the entire game in VR to rival that of the Oculus Quest 2 version of the original, but I couldn’t find a source from Capcom on this. — Looking back at the IGN feature, they don’t call out the entire game. Either it read that way to me or they updated the article after I read it yesterday. I vote for reader error.

2. There was a quote from VGC’s Call of the Mountain review that I just had to include.

Another element of Call of the Mountain that is very authentic to the main series is the main character’s point-blank refusal to let any moment of silence linger for more than a few seconds.

The Last of Us Ep. 4 – “Please Hold to My Hand” Thoughts & Impressions

My final point in last episode’s review:

If they do not play Hank Williams’ “Alone and Forsaken” when they roll into Kansas City, the production team will have forsaken me.

The team over at HBO and PlayStation did not forsake me, but they sure have forsaken key character traits in Joel. insert that one meme here

Jokes aside, I continue to be surprised at the changes (and often enhancements) to the source material. I am struggling to approach my reviews without the filter of the game. Now, this doesn’t ruin my enjoyment of the show: I think my familiarity enhances what I get out of each episode, but I do feel like my reviews have settled into comparison and analysis.

Episode 4 was supposed to be a pop off episode. The events line up with Pittsburgh (swapped for the further westward Kansas City), which is the true introduction of the human enemies dubbed Hunters. Knowing this gave the first half of the episode tension for me. I wonder how this felt to the audience that hasn’t played the game. I would think tension is perhaps only conveyed when Joel stays up all night and takes the rifle out of the truck to investigate a blockade. Joel knows the real threat is out there—just like players—while Ellie hasn’t seen that side of humanity—just like folks new to the series.

The ambush in Kansas City is properly and horrifically adapted to television. Only a handful of men go after the truck. The gunfire is oppressive; not in its rapidity, but its power. Joel urges Ellie to hide in a hole in the wall, while he gets to work murdering the Hunters. Joel’s deafness in one ear proves to nearly be his downfall as the final assailant begins to choke Joel out.

We then get the payoff of Ellie’s gun that has been building all season long. Her unsteadiness doesn’t lead her to actually killing the man, but instead paralyzing him with a shot to the spine. It’s slower and more brutal than a headshot.

This scene was just sickening. The Hunter begs to make peace and eventually starts crying out for his mother. It’s a look at the violence and its immediate aftermath that Naughty Dog would go on to explore more fully in Part II, but seeing a real-life actor go through this range was gut wrenching. Joel sends Ellie off and finished the job, off-screen, letting our imagination run.

Before I go on to the rest of the episode and the cast of characters we meet, I think now is a good time to talk about those forsaken traits in Joel.

Joel is not quick to anger in HBO’s rendition. He doesn’t get mad at Ellie for having and using the gun. There’s no “it was you or him” justification from Ellie. We know Pedro Pascal’s version is capable of anger since he beat a FEDRA soldier to death, but that was triggered by PTSD. This new Joel is instead racked with guilt and fear. His failures to save Sarah and Tess hang heavy on his mind and heart. Despite this, we see his inclination is to protect and preserve Ellie’s innocence.

From last week’s attempt to avoid the mass grave to forcing her to leave the room while he finishes off the Hunter, Joel fights to shield Ellie from the horror of humanity. It’s why he doesn’t want her to have a gun. It’s a paternal and protector instinct. He can bear the brunt of reality, if it keeps his people safe.

This makes me wonder what Joel’s anger will feel like when it does come. There’s a quietness and efficiency to this version. I’m awaiting these changes and to see the fruit of these little seeds being planted now.

So let’s go back to the plot and talk about said Hunters. These folks are hunting Sam and Henry for some unknown reason. Spurred by their lead Kathleen, she seems to be on quite the mission for revenge against those two.

This feels like a mini Part II story about the cost of revenge. I don’t suspect it is going to play out well for Kathleen and her crew. And frankly, I think this fleshing out weakens the Hunters. There is something fundamentally scary about people methodically killing outsiders in hopes they have decent shoes or a slice of jerky. The nonchalant nature surrounding murder makes them scarier in the game.

This attempt at providing context and building some form of sympathy that’s origin is shrouded falls flat for me. Kathleen is in charge, but why the obsessive hunt? Clearly revenge, but we have no connection to her or her people. Our allegiance has been established with Joel and Ellie. Without the opportunity to spend time in Kansas City with Kathleen and the residents of the QZ, the audience is getting the final pages of the Cliff Notes for her character. It robs the group of its imposing presence and fear.

The gap from the source material continue to widen, and for the first time, I think they’ve taken a step back. The changes to Joel are fascinating and (obviously) have time to breath. I think the stumble is with the occupants of Kansas City. With one more week, I don’t suspect we will come to care or fear them much at all. And that’s a shame.

I was tempted for my review to just be “They played Alone & Forsaken, so this is episode was perfect,” but that seemed too obvious.

Also, I am sorry for posting this one a bit late. I tried to get it up before Friday’s pushed up premiere of episode five, but just didn’t have the time. Now that this is done though, I can push on to write my review for that episode. Until that review is published though, here are some observations I made in episode four,

  • Jeffrey Pierce appears! What a great role for him as a cameo. That beard is dope.
  • While plenty of lines have been plucked straight from the game’s script, I was bummed to not hear Pedro’s rendition of “Oh, he ain’t even hurt” as the confront the ambush. That delivery in the game is from a place of frustration, adrenaline, and preparation of the clear fight ahead. In the show, we don’t get this line at all or that energy rolling into the alleyway attack. More signs of a slow to anger Joel.
  • Joel and Ellie crash into a laundry mat instead of a bodega. The fight was far less “in your face.” More cover and popping off shots, until the last man standing choke out.
  • That fungal crater hidden in a building is giving me major Rat King vibes and I am hear for it.
  • Joel’s fractured, bruised knuckles are the new broken watch. I love the shots that linger on them, reminding us all of the first episode.

PS VR2 Interview with 17-Bit – Digital Foundry

PSVR 2 Deep Dive – Song In The Smoke Preview – Talking Tech With 17-Bit by John Linneman for Digital Foundry

I’ve been chipping away at this interview for the past few days.1 Word on the street is the PS VR2 embargo is this Wednesday (2/15/22), which makes sense being a week before launch. Hearing devs talk about their experience with the hardware feels like a ice-cold glass of water on a hot summer day.

My biggest take away is the eye-tracking as a form on input. It sounds like magic. Weapon wheels, item pick-ups, and interaction with the speed and accuracy of your eyes is shaping up to be a generational leap for VR. Can’t wait to try it out next week.

1. 5 minutes here, 3 minutes there. I am learning that having a baby around the house means a lot more bit by bit doing whatever we’d like to do. 😅

PS VR2 Unboxing – PlayStation Blog

PlayStation VR2 Unboxing by PlayStation

PS VR2 is out in the press’ hands and it finally feels like Sony is ramping up the previews and promotion. We are only 12 days away from the first deliveries being made. I’d wager on reviews being live late next week or the beginning of launch week. It’s positive to see units out and about two weeks early.

One tidbit from the official unboxing that I wasn’t aware of before. I was surprised to see the earbud integration with the headset. They nestle into the headband area and then the buds chill out in the cutouts along the outside. So slick and clean. This keeps wires from dangling down. I really hope that I can use the Pulse headset in the same manner.

Chapter Select: Season 5, Episode 3 – Resident Evil 0

Episode art generated by DALL-E 2 with the following prompt written by Logan Moore - "destroyed train in an abandoned forest at night diorama"
Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Logan Moore

All aboard! Co-op duo Max Roberts and Logan Moore team up to exterminate pests and meet the founders of the Umbrella Corp in Resident Evil 0. Do the adventures of Rebecca and Billy chug along or does this prequel derail the origins of the series?

Download (33MB) — Episode Transcript

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Resident Evil 0

  • Developer – Capcom
  • Platforms – GameCube, PS3/360, PS4/X1/Switch
  • Release Date – November 12, 2002
  • Game Director – Koji Oda
  • Producer – Tatsuya Minami
  • Composer – Seiko Kobuchi

Metacritic – 83/100

This episode was originally recorded on January 13, 2023.


Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Logan Moore.