Chapter Select: Season 5, Episode 9 – Resident Evil 5

Episode art generated by DALL-E 2 with the following prompt written by Max Roberts - "A cave with a small hill in the center filled with blood orange colored flowers illuminated by an opening in the ceiling above in a diorama style."
Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts

Time to step out of the standard definition darkness into the HD light! Co-op partners Max Roberts and Logan Moore head to Africa to fight off the emergence of bio-weapon threats and find an old friend. Along the way, they ask themselves the all-important question: What really is Resident Evil?

Download (48MB) — Episode Transcript

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Resident Evil 5

Metacritic – 84/100 (Lost in Nightmares 81/100) (Desperate Escape 73/100)

This episode was originally recorded on April 14, 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 Max Roberts.

The Review System is Broken

There is something wrong with the traditional video game review. The key word here being “traditional.” I’m talking about the media outlet or content creator getting a game early from a publisher then reviewing said game under a set of guidelines, all with the goal of publishing said review when the embargo lifts.

An embargo, in this context, is a ban on talking about a product before a time specified by the publisher. For agreeing to these sets of rules, they will grant you access to the product early so you can produce your own content surrounding the game, movie, tech, etc. It’s a scratch my back, I scratch yours sort of relationship…on paper.

In games, it has become quite common to get games, not so early. Maybe a week before launch, two if you are lucky. With big budget AAA games swelling in scope, these games can take 40 hours to complete. That’s a work week. On top of your work week.

Of course, media plays the SEO game and it is believed to be vital to have your coverage up right at embargo. So bum rushing through the game is therefore vital to have coverage at launch. Consumers don’t play games that way though. It warps your perspective on the product. You are playing a vacuum.

Throw in the fact that more and more games are straight up arriving broken and you have yourself a catch-22. No review exemplified this issue more than Patrick Klepek’s “review” of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor this week.

It’s been fun. I’ve had a good time. It’s also been a time marred by gnarly performances issues on my PlayStation 5 copy of the game, resulting in…well, that’s where this whole review conceit falls apart. See, I could give you two paragraphs of the frame rate issues that partially defined my 10 hours, but those issues seem to have largely disappeared when a last-minute patch for the game dropped. Frame rate hiccups bother me less than other people I know, but still, they did notably impact my ability to play the game, and those experiences affected my impressions of Jedi Survivor. But it all happened in a version you’ll never play?

Part of the reason I capped myself at 10 hours was because I was told the patch might break my save. That’s admittedly unusual for the review process—usually patches during the review period don’t post any danger to your progress. But I was faced with the choice between sprinting through the whole game before the patch came out, or possibly replaying a ton of the game after losing my saves, or I could just wait and see what this patched version was going to be like. I tried to split the difference, and I’m not sure who it helped.

Patrick’s piece is swell. It reminded me of the golden age of Kotaku. Mainstream press doesn’t write like this. I guess that could be part of why Vice shutdown Waypoint the following day.1

This scenario of games releasing undercooked to press and consumers is unfair to devs and players. The system has been manipulated into a marketing tool and everyone seems to have just gone along with it.

This extends into all facets of the review from the structure to the score. Metacritic scores smash the accelerator in the race to the bottom. Reviews are distilled into bullet point snapshots blasted out in a ephemeral story post.

Reviews should be the voice of the critic. The audience is there for that person’s take. I get excited when John Linneman is behind a Digital Foundry video. Kirk Hamilton wrote one of my favorite reviews ever. I implicitly trust Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty’s takes on Naughty Dog. Why?

Because I have come to know these folks, their tastes, and how they align (or don’t) with my own. That’s where the real power in thoughtful criticism lies.

That’s why, since I left mainstream press, I stopped giving out scores. I never liked attaching an arbitrary number to my reviews. If you read my reviews (or as I call them—to SEO’s detriment—“Thoughts & Impressions”), you’ll know how I feel about the game.

Scores, early access, bending a knee to SEO, it’s a game I am so tired of watching. My feelings have bubbled over with Jedi: Survivor. The system is broken. And I’m glad that I have a place and platform to be the change I want to see.

1. Or it could be that Vice may be filing for bankruptcy.

Tears of the Kingdom Impressions – SkillUp

I played Tears of the Kingdom (spoiler-free hands-on impressions) by Ralph for SkillUp

Previews for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom went up last week (I think…I’ve lost all sense of time). I glanced around at some written ones1, but SkillUp’s took the cake. Ralph is direct. This is the core loop of Tears of the Kingdom shown off in just the right amount. That’s all I plan on looking at from here on out.

Word on the street is that the game has leaked. Since I am social media free, I do not live in fear of spoilers. It’s a relief. I picked up my new Zelda-themed Switch last week.2 GameStop is preparing to tke my money for the collector’s edition. The hype train is-a rolling on.

1. I skimmed IGN‘s preview by Brain Altano and‘s by Marc Deschamps.

2. It’s still in the box. Heck, it may be in there until after the move at the end of the month. I may not even touch TotK until June. 🤷🏼‍♂️

The Last of Us Ep. 9 – “Look for the Light” Thoughts & Impressions

Well, here we are (seven weeks later 😅). This particular review has been hanging over me. Sure, I’ve been quite busy with work, podcast production, and buying a house: I have excuses. But I haven’t been able to shake the weight of finishing up my season review of The Last of Us. It’s surrounded by completed tasks on my to do list; a constant, blank reminder to come back.

Part of me needed time from the finale. I came out of it with disappointment and I kind of just sat in that. I poured myself into those other tasks—those excuses—all the while letting the finale be mulled over in the back of my mind. Not being on social media allowed me to be alone with my thoughts. I think I only discussed the finale with Abby, Logan, and one friend who brought it up at ultimate frisbee.

It’s time though.

The finale of The Last of Us is stunted. Clocking in at just under 43 minutes, there is no time for it to come into its own. The bulk of it sticks strictly to the game and that adherence is a hinderance. The strongest moments are not from the game, but new material brought into the light of the tiny silver screen. But those wonderful new elements have zero no time to grow or have no payoff. The rushed nature that I have been talking about since episode five compounds in the finale.

The cold open returns and was the defacto highlight of the episode. Ashley Johnson plays Ellie’s mother, Anna. Perfect casting. No one else could have done this. Ashley has given life to Ellie both in her decade long performance has her in the game and now on the HBO adaptation.

There’s real tension and suspense watching this pregnant women, in labor, trying to fight off the infected. We also get an explanation to Ellie’s immunity, something the games never really broached. Turns out this was all an original story and pitch back in 2014. There’s more to this story and one we may yet see come to light. It’s so fast, raw, and powerful. The show can do that because there is no box to be contained in. This story is new and the show shines because of that.

Later on, Joel and Ellie have a classic heart to heart before the final battle moment. We see Joel open up about some scar on his head, which turned out to be an attempted suicide on day two of the apocalypse. It’s a scenario that feels so grounded and it’s one I never considered for Joel. But this scar, as far as I recall, had never been mentioned before, never brushed off, or focused on. So we get this moment of vulnerability without any meaningful build up. It’s shock value that cheapens the weight of the actual moment between the two characters.

I think a little before that particular exchange, we get the legendary giraffe scene. It was great to see a real giraffe, a choice I was hoping they’d make. I feel like the scene lacked punch though. The show follows the game beat for beat, which includes the ladder “prompt” and subversion. This loses all its umpfh. These two have never done the ladder retrieval on the show. There’s no expectation to subvert. This narrative beat was entirely sculpted around gameplay. Now, the actual giraffe encounter is strong. A little is lost since we don’t control the pace of departure. I always linger and this, again, felt rushed. We have a lot of story to get through and only checks playhead 22 minutes to go.

During Joel’s hospital massacre, a tonal mismatch of the highest degree occurs. As Joel is ratta tat tatting through the Fireflies, we hear Gustavo Santaolalla’s All Gone (No Escape) sweeping underneath. A melancholic song that pulls your heart along its desperate notes. In the game, this emerges as Joel carries Ellie out of surgery to escape. In the show, it plays while Joel mows down mercenaries. The juxtaposition is so jarring. It lends tender, clinging hope to the most gamey part of the show rather than the paternal affection and desperation Joel displays during the actual escape. I’m saddened by this emotional mismatch.

My last complaint/nitpick/issue/etc. lies in the camera work of the infamous final scene. When Joel lies to Ellie outside of Jackson, the cameras are tilted ever so slightly to give power to Joel in the scene. From Joel’s perspective, the camera is looking down on Ellie; and Ellie’s angle is looking up to Joel. Sure, there is the physical height of it all, but in the language of cinema, this gives Joel the power in the scene. In the game, the camera is square with both protagonists. I felt this tilt diminishes Ellie’s understanding, hesitation, and growth throughout. In fairness, this is something that could pay off cinematically in future seasons, should they mirror this conversation dynamic as roles and power shift.

Here, at the end of season one, I am bummed, yet hopeful. This debut is too crammed and squanders what time it does have with the audience. Trying to fit the entire first game was a necessity from a “we have one chance” perspective. Now with multiple seasons in the works, the crew has time to slow down, explore, and grow.

HBO’s The Last of Us was at its best when it did its own thing; when it tried to expand upon the world. Some new bits were strong, while others were weak. Time was the enemy here.

As a fan, it was strange to look at something new, yet familiar. The shape of the thing was a rough approximation for what came before. The details were where differences stood out. Being so close, so familiar at times, creates an urge to reject. It can put you in a place of denial even. By the end, I wanted space from it all. I wanted the original back. Heck, I might play both games this summer.

And here, at the end of it all, I can’t help, but compare it all to Sarah and Ellie. I am Joel. I’m older. I long for the joy of new Naughty Dog stories. My reaction is to reject the 2.0, the replacement, the adaptation. By the end of my adventure with season one, I am not the Joel at the end of the game. I’m closer to the Joel at the ranch outside of Jackson. I’m scared to get close, guarding myself off as we tread on some mighty thin ice. Perhaps over time, with full understanding of what the show is and what the games are, I can see the show for what it is rather than what it is not. Perhaps with the space to breath both the show and myself can understand one another and grow. There is hope and opportunity in the space between. And when I consider that, I think it will all be okay.

I did it. I reviewed an entire season of television. Dang man. TV criticism is tougher on paper. I have no clue if I’ll do that same for season two, but thankfully I have time to figure that out. It wouldn’t be a TV episode review from me without my observations. Hopefully I can parse my notes seven weeks removed.

  • The amount of Part II music was apparently “sooooo much.” I was always excited to hear Gus and Mac’s newer music utilized in Part I scenarios.
  • Sticking with the Part II energy, the house in the cold open had major Ellie farm vibes.
  • I found it interesting that Anna and Marlene knew each other their entire lives. Not sure that was a detail in the games.
  • Anna reminded me quite a bit of the American Daughters easter egg in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I would love to know the story behind that poster.
  • Pretty sure I spotted that Pedro Pascal is double jointed in his thumb.
  • Marlene’s cold delivery was stellar.
  • Given how swiftly Anna was killed, feels like there was no chance for her to write her letter to Ellie. Perhaps she did in between scenes, but felt like that didn’t happen in the show.

Humanity is Out May 16

The fine folks over at Enhance and tha have announced the release date for the puzzle game Humanity with a total throwback mishmash of trailers.

Full disclosure; I was a play tester for Humanity and was financially compensated for my time. I chatted with Chris Johnston about it on The Max Frequency Podcast. I’d love to do a full, non-NDA-breaking write up about my experience someday after launch. I am stoked to dive in again and chase the Platinum.

Eagle-eyed viewers may be able to find a level I made in the trailer. 👀

Procrastination pays off again! Mark MacDonald and my friend Chris Johnston published a deep dive into the gameplay and modes of Humanity on the PlayStation YouTube channel. If you want a taste of what I was able to experience, check it out.

N64 on MiSTer – RetroRGB

MiSTer FPGA News – Nintendo 64, Neo Geo Pocket, Simpsons & More by Lu for RetroRGB

I’ve been off Twitter all year (which has felt great), but I’ve realized lately that Twitter was my main source for retro gaming news. So I hopped over to RetroRGB and plopped their RSS feed in NetNewsWire. Lo and behold, a few days later, I am made aware that Robert (aka FPGAzumSpass of PSX core fame) is working on a N64 core. If anyone can crank out that wizardry, he can.

Happy to be plugged back in a bit and to see FPGA emulation tackling the beast that is the Nintendo 64.

Paper Mario, Decompiled – VGC

Paper Mario has been fully decompiled, meaning PC ports and mods are possible by Chris Scullion for Video Games Chronicle

Coder Ethan Roseman says he’s been able to reverse engineer the game’s full source code, resulting in a recreation of the code rather than a straight copy.

The news opens the door to potential ‘legal’ PC ports and mods of the game which technically don’t infringe on any Nintendo copyright.

“I’m extremely happy to announce that after 3+ years of working on a decompilation project for Paper Mario, we have reached 100% completion for the US version of the game,” Roseman said on Twitter. “Every compiled function has been matched.”

I’ve have had the itch to spend time with Paper Mario as of late. Perhaps it’s because I see it in retro stores for $90 and have begun to think “that’s not that expensive.” Perhaps, I just want that cozy game while my life is surrounded by change and hustle.

Glad to see N64 classics continue to be broken down for the PC world.

Chapter Select: Season 5, Episode 8 – Resident Evil Village

Episode art generated by DALL-E 2 with the following prompt written by Max Roberts - "Resident Evil 8 Castle Dimitrescu with spires sprawling in the cold mountainside of Eastern Europe diorama horror vampire."
Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts

Lycans and gentlemen! Village locals Max Roberts, Logan Moore, and special guest Michael Ruiz, run around town trying to put a baby back together. Was RE8 able to recapture the magic of previous entries or should Capcom have left the vampires and werewolves to Konami?

Download (51MB) — Episode Transcript

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Resident Evil Village

Metacritic – 84/100 (PS VR2 – 82/100)

This episode was originally recorded on April 10, 2023.


Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Michael’s Twitter @TheMichaelJRuiz

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

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

Celebrating Mega Man Battle Network

It is no secret I have deep fondness for Mega Man Battle Network 3. The Legacy Collection is finally out, and while I don’t have my own copy yet, I noticed a couple videos from some of my favorite YouTubers jacking in to the series.

8-Bit Music Theory dissects the “hype-est” track from games. 8-Bit’s full-blown analysis of music excites me. I may not know musical language or be able to read music (sorry piano teacher), but I learn something with every video. I feel smart watching the music play along the sheet and being able to visualize what 8-Bit is talking about.

Dan Root of Video Game Animation Study put out his first video in seven months and it is a full-blown, top down exploration of the animation for Mega Man and crew. The efficiency Capcom shows off on the Game Boy Advance is marvelous.

Both videos are superb and educational looks at some all-time classics, outside of the usual “here’s how the games play,” or “here’s all the hot Navi lore you need to know.” Check em out and then go play these games.

Change, Hype, and Zelda

Sometimes I watch this just to feel something. What an immaculate trailer.

With Tears of the Kingdom just four weeks away1, it feels strange to not have a level of hype like this trailer gives folks, even to this day. Perhaps it is because I am older, more tired, and juggling more. Maybe it is the level of secrecy Nintendo has had surround the newest game.

I am excited for Tears of the Kingdom, but I am not “hype.” Is it because this open-world Zelda is a know quantity now? Or that it isn’t launching alongside next-gen hardware? It is interesting to look back and think about all of this.

Perhaps procrastination will pay off again: Since I started this draft, Nintendo now has announced the premiere of the “final pre-launch trailer” for Tears of the Kingdom is tomorrow (4/12/23). If there was ever a moment to try and chase the dragon that is the 2017 trailer, this is it. 🤞🏻

There is so much different in my life surrounding this new game compared to Breath of the Wild. I have a kid now. Heck, I wasn’t married when Breath of the Wild dropped. I wrote a complete history of the game’s development. I was working on the guide for BotW. This will be the first 3D Zelda I’ve played since 2011 that I have played purely for myself and fun, with no work of deadline surrounding it.2 That has me more hyped up than the game itself.

It’s strange how much has changed in six years. I wonder how this version of Hyrule has changed. Will I recognize and remember the hills, mountains, and valleys? How will it feel to explore as a dad? Will I be playing in handheld while my daughter rolls around, maybe starts crawling?

Change is constant, but we are not always aware of it until afterward. Using Zelda as a marker for change is making me keenly aware. I suspect the next time a 3D Zelda game releases, Eloise will be old enough to engage with the games. ☠️

This has turned into the ramblings of a old(-feeling) dad watching his daughter grow up far too quickly, even if it has only been six months. Perhaps I am entering my King of Red Lions phase of life. Not a terrible place to be when you put it like that.

1. And that beautiful SWOLED out in just two weeks. 🤤

2. I have gone back to Skyward Sword (on the Wii) and played my fair share of the 3DS games. You get my point though.

Media Molecule is ending support for Dreams in September – VGC

Media Molecule is ending support for Dreams in September by Chris Scullion for Video Games Chronicle

Players will still be able to play, create and share content on the game after September 1, but it will be receiving no further updates after this date.

The game will also be migrating to a new server in late May, at which point players will be given a storage limit of 5GB for their creations.

The dream is dead.