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Games Roundup – PS5 UK Launch

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, the PS5 launches in the UK, so let’s take a look at what’s going on with Sony’s new box.

The Hardware

The first thing that becomes obvious with the PlayStation 5 is its size. The console is massive, looking like a narrow PC tower with popped collars. You could place the eye of Sauron on this and it wouldn’t look out of place looming over your other electronics.

But this is beneficial, as it’s hoping to avoid the PS4’s major problem, which was anything remotely intensive causing the console to sound like a passenger jet was flying directly through your house. With the PS5’s increased size, the fan noise is much quieter, as it circulates heat much more efficiently. There have been some reports of the disc drive being a little noisy but nothing too bad.

Specs-wise, the PS5 is marginally less powerful than the Series X, with Sony seemingly pushing the SSD and ray tracing capabilities above raw power. Reviews describe the performance as an improvement that’s not quite as good as the Xbox Series X, and remains an iterative upgrade that requires a 4K TV to get the most out of.

The speediness of the SSD is notable for PS5 games, but is a little lacking for backwards compatible PS4 titles, which load slightly faster than they would on the PS4, but noticeably slower than the PS5 equivalents. Reports from those who’ve used both consoles also describe the Xbox Quick Resume spoiling them for when they moved to the PS5, where the closest feature allows you to quickly switch between games but not resume them where you left off.

The general impression I got from reading first impressions is that it’s difficult to discuss the PS5 hardware as that feels like Sony’s lowest priority, with the experience and the games taking centre stage.

The Experience

Unlike Microsoft who seem to have lifted the Xbox One dashboard and dropped it unchanged onto the Series X, the PS5 has seen a fresh look for its user interface. There are two layers to Sony’s layout, with a quick menu that shows up in games, and a larger menu similar to the PS4’s. The store is built into this latter menu too, which marks a step-up from the slow-loading app that existed on the previous two systems.

Sony are also making a big push towards a card system, where various items will show up on the in-game menu, offering a number of features. These includes hints for your game, challenges that push you towards trophies or other extra content, and news about the game itself. I can honestly say I’ve never paid much attention to in-console news features, so this isn’t too interesting, but the challenges and hints are a nice addition. However, their usage is dependent on how willing developers are to use them.

There are also a lot of handy features for picture-in-picture options. Whether this is streaming another player’s gameplay so you can chat while enjoying each other’s gameplay, or the hint videos provided by certain games, you can snap videos to wherever you need them. From what I’ve been reading this also works with media apps so if you want to watch Netflix while playing Demon’s Souls for some reason, you can. Again, while it’s a neat feature, it’s not clear how much this will be used once the honeymoon period has worn off.

Where reviews are pointing to the PS5 as a truly next-gen experience, however, is the DualSense controller. It’s loaded with new features including haptic feedback and HD rumble similar to the Switch’s Joy-Cons. With haptic feedback, games are more reactive to you, and the controller will provide appropriate resistance, depending on what’s happening in game. HD Rumble features also mean that the vibration of the controller corresponds more directly to what’s happening on screen. The hope is that these things will enhance immersion, and many reviews are praising these additions, but the question remains how long this will be supported, especially for third-party titles releasing on other systems that lack these features.

I read a lot of concerns about the PS5’s 3D audio feature, where sound is meant to sound like a surround system without needing an actual sound system, but most reports are saying that the effect is minimal, if it’s there at all. Seems like it’s a feature that still needs ironing out, and once again, it’s not clear how this will be utilised long-term.

That said, there has been a lot of praise for Astro’s Playroom, the pack-in game that comes pre-installed with the purpose of showing off all these fancy features. The consensus is this cutesy 3D platformer is the real demonstration of next-gen as the controller’s new features get a full workout here, all while you journey through a celebration of PlayStation history, whether that’s finding a Vita hidden under a shrub or finding some robots acting out Resident Evil for the cameras. For a glorified tech demo, Astro’s Playroom has seen more breathless reactions of joy and awe than anything else provided by next-gen so far.

The Games

But there are more games than just the pack-in! There are a bunch of games tied to the PS5 launch for your consideration.

There’s Godfall, from Gearbox, which is billing itself as a “looter-slasher” and therefore I immediately hate it. It’s not getting great reviews, as it feels like an excuse to bloat a game with live service nonsense with “you use swords not guns” as its “unique” selling point. Not a great start, it seems.

The Pathless looks like a much better prospect, from Abzu devs Giant Squid. It’s a gorgeous open world game where you play as a bow-wielding hunter and her pet eagle as they seek to lift a curse. The game puts heavy emphasis on fluid movement, making navigation of the world a joy, and takes away mini-maps and markers of other open world titles to allow players to navigate through the world their own way. A lot of praise for this one, which is looking like a surprise breakout hit.

Then there’s Sackboy: A Big Adventure, a game that’s being largely overlooked despite LittleBigPlanet being one of the most consistently charming franchises out there. This is the first time the series has gone full 3D platformer (which probably explains the rebranding) and it looks like it’s still bringing the same cuddly joy in a world that resembles the inside of my brain. Sadly, Stephen Fry is not back for narration, but Dawn French has stepped in so I can’t complain too much.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the follow-up to Insomniac’s Spider-Man title from 2018, with the titular character taking up the Spider-Mantle. Similar to games like Infamous: First Light or Uncharted: Lost Legacy, this isn’t a full-scale Spider-Man game but a significant standalone expansion. If you enjoyed the previous game, this looks set to be just as great, although its reduced size may be off-putting to some.

And the big launch release is the long-awaited remake of Demon’s Souls. The precursor to Dark Souls, the Hardest Game In Existence Apparently, Demon’s Souls was a little underappreciated on its original release, but it’s back now so Souls fans can get to experience how it all started.

The PS5 definitely has the better line-up of the two consoles, but despite how many games are tied to the launch, so few of them are truly exclusive to the system. Spider-Man and Sackboy are also on PS4, while The Pathless is on PS4 and PC, while Godfall similarly has a PC release (on the Epic Store). Only Demon’s Souls is 100% exclusive to the PS5, so your decision to buy a PS5 for its games is currently tied to how much you enjoy the Soulsborne titles and if you’re okay with your big generational leap being defined by a remake of an 11-year-old PS3 game.

So…PS5 or Xbox Series X?

That is the question isn’t it? The Series X is certainly the winner on sheer power and pricing, especially if you opt for the subscription model, while the PS5 is looking stronger on games, and seems to be making more of a push to distinguish itself from its predecessor with the DualSense controller.

Honestly, this is one of the hardest generations to make the decision as both systems are looking strong. While the Xbox One stumbled at the start of last gen, and the PS3 stumbled the generation prior to that, this time around both Sony and Microsoft are looking to have confident starts, and honestly that’s a great thing!

My personal advice is that neither system is looking too essential at the minute, although there are certainly benefits to both. But games are still tied heavily to the previous generation so everything feels like a minor upgrade at the moment. If you’re looking for easy access to a lot of games for a reasonable price right out of the gate, the Series X is the better prospect with Game Pass, while the PS5 is best suited to those looking for experiences they won’t get anywhere else, although it will take a little while to fully get there.

Anyway, that’s enough of the PS5, Mat’s here to talk esports! What’s happening, Mat?

BBC to Broadcast CSGO

Thanks Leigh! That’s right, I’m back with the latest in esports related gaming news for this week.

That’s right, CSGO is coming to the “Beeb” next week. Streaming on BBC Sport accessible via BBC iPlayer, you’ll get to see this year’s CSGO (Counter Strike Global Offensive) Blast Premier Series. Coverage starts on Tuesday 24th November.

The series features some of the world’s absolute best CSGO players with 12 elite teams from the states and Europe competing. The prize pool is a modest $1m prize pool and concludes on 19th January 2021 with the Global Final.

Among teams competing is the UK’s very own team Endpoint whose first match will be against Evil Geniuses on Thursday 26th November at 6:30pm. The BBC is the latest broadcast partner to join Blast’s global portfolio of TV and online partners that have a joint reach of over 150m TV households and broadcast in 18 languages.

Here at Geeky Brummie, we think this is pretty exciting. The BBC’s decision to broadcast the tournament follows on from the immense success of their previous broadcasts of Rocket League World Championships and the UK League Championship (UKLC) and Northern League of Legends Championship (NLC) earlier this year. It’s giving esports more exposure in the mainstream as well as giving fans something to look forward to while we’re still navigating the ongoing pandemic.

UK Esports Awards 2020 Winners Revealed

A few months ago, I talked about the UK Esports Awards getting delayed as they made the switch to digital because of the coronavirus. Now the event has taken place and the 13 winners have been revealed. To recap, the UK Esports Awards was established two years ago in 2018 as a showcase to recognise the individuals who go ‘above and beyond’ to improve the domestic esports scene in the UK. Awards are put to public nomination and then decided by an esteemed judging panel comprised of industry leaders.

The ceremony took place last Friday (13th November) on the UKCSGO Twitch channel. Winners included team Endpoint who scooped Organisation of the Year and their in-game leader for CSGO Max “MiGHTYMAX” Heath as Stream of the Year. Max and team Endpoint will compete in the aforementioned CSGO Blast Premier Series next week.

To watch the ceremony or see the full list of winners head over to this link.

League of Legends Mobile Game Heading to UK

Riot Games, the publisher behind several of the top esports in the world including League of Legends and Valorant, has revealed further information on its latest venture coming to us a lot sooner than we thought.

League of Legends: Wild Rift (stylised simply as Wild Rift) is the official mobile version of the popular PC MOBA. Riot revealed yesterday that the game will be launching in Europe and the UK on Thursday 10th December with a regional open beta. This means that all players who have registered for the game will have full access when the beta goes live.

With the open beta will come a new content patch, featuring several new champions and skins, player-requested features, balance adjustments and bugfixes, will roll out to players worldwide, with more info coming on 21st December.

Despite me being a Dota 2 fan, I am excited for this release. I’ve played a few mobile based MOBAs, so it will be interesting how Riot – as the publisher who effectively shaped the genre into the goliath it is today – handles the mobile version. Particularly, I’ll be interesting to see how it stacks up against Arena of Valor, which highly resembles LoL in both style and substance. Both the developers of AoV and LoL are subsidiary of China based Tencent Games.

AoV has cornered the mobile esports market in Asia and is one of the most watched games on streaming platforms like Youtube and Twitch. The question is, will LoL capture the Western mobile market because of it’s brand power over this side of the world? It also means big things for legitimising mobile gaming and mobile esports alongside other mobile games such as Hearthstone and PUBG mobile.

Watch this space! Back over to you Leigh!

The One Non-PS5 Game Release

Thanks, Mat! Before I get to my game of the week, here’s one more game release this week.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity has launched on Switch, putting the Zelda universe into a Dynasty Warriors style game for the second time. This one’s a big deal though, as it also acts as a prequel to the events of Breath of the Wild, with Eiji Aonuma personally requesting Koei Tecmo to make it due to the canon of large-scale warfare tearing Hyrule apart during the Calamity. Could be an interesting one, but if you weren’t a fan of the original Hyrule Warriors, this is unlikely to convert you.

Game of the Week

Game of the Week is the remaining launch title for the PS5, the game everybody’s talkin’ bout: Bugsnax! The concept is simple. There are little creatures that are kind of bug and kind of snack, and you try to catch them in your trap. And then you feed somebody and you’ll see we are whatever we eat.

In a strange mix of Pokémon and a survival game, Bugsnax sees you catching delicious and adorable creatures and then eating them to change body parts into the food the Bugsnak is based on. It’s already become a bit of a meme because of its strange concept and ridiculously catchy theme song (which has been stuck in my head for the best part of a week now). And I admit that I’ve kinda been taken in by it too.

Bugsnax promises to be a fun time that doesn’t take itself seriously and may also be hiding some horror behind its cutesy exterior and goofy naming conventions. Totally my jam.

And that’s it for this week! No roundup next week, but we’ll be back in two weeks with normal service resumed! See you then!

PS5 Review Links

Ars Technica: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/11/playstation-5-review-more-of-a-generational-hop-than-a-leap/
Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-11-06/playstation-5-review-video-games-you-can-actually-feel
CNet: https://www.cnet.com/news/ps5-review-exclusive-games-power-sonys-sky-high-space-age-console/
Destructoid: https://www.destructoid.com/stories/review-playstation-5-607995.phtml
Digital Spy: https://www.digitalspy.com/tech/best-tech-deals/a34560561/sony-playstation-5-review/
Engadget: https://www.engadget.com/sony-playstation-5-review-130048353.html
Eurogamer: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/playstation-5-review-digitalfoundry
Game Informer: https://www.gameinformer.com/playstation-5-review-ps5
Gamespot: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/ps5-review-playstation-5/1100-6484155/
Gamesradar: https://www.gamesradar.com/uk/ps5-review/
Gizmodo: https://gizmodo.com/sony-ps5-review-breaking-the-mold-1845638293
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/games/2020/nov/06/playstation-5-review-sony-splashy-new-console
IGN: https://www.ign.com/articles/playstation-5-review
Kotaku: https://kotaku.com/playstation-5-the-kotaku-review-1845588904
Mashable: https://mashable.com/article/playstation-5-review/?europe=true
Nerdist: https://nerdist.com/article/sony-ps5-playstation-review/
PC Gamer: https://www.pcgamer.com/playstation-5-review/
PCMag: https://uk.pcmag.com/gaming-systems/129793/sony-playstation-5
Polygon: https://www.polygon.com/reviews/21549230/ps5-review-playstation-5-sony-next-gen
Screen Rant: https://screenrant.com/playstation-5-review-ps5/
Tech Radar: https://www.techradar.com/in/reviews/ps5
Venture Beat: https://venturebeat.com/2020/11/06/playstation-5-review-making-console-gaming-exciting-again/
The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/21550146/sony-playstation-5-ps5-review
VG247: https://www.vg247.com/2020/11/06/ps5-review-next-gen-playstation/
Vice: https://www.vice.com/en/article/4advdn/playstation-5-review-miles-morales-astros-playroom-bugsnax
Video Gamer: https://www.videogamer.com/features/playstation-5-review-next-gen-joy
Wired: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/playstation-5-review