Dragon Ball FighterZ PS4 Review

Dragon Ball Z has never looked as consistently good as it did in Dragon Ball FighterZ. This was the game of my dreams. Ever since Capcom’s X-men vs Street Fighter, I dreamt of a Dragon Ball Z fighting game in that mold. All I wanted was for Capcom to be given a chance to bring the popular anime franchise and give it the Marvel vs. treatment. I wanted giant beam fireballs, air combos, and all the over-the-top action in a well playing game. It turns out that Arc System Works (not Capcom) would be the ones to fulfill my dreams 20 years later.  

I was more than happy to shell out the dough for the base game, the season pass, and just get right into the thick of things. I spent countless hours trying different characters, progressing through all the in-game combo trials, and even dabbled in a fair bit of competitive play and main story mission. In the end, I realized I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun engaging with the game’s different modes. I enjoyed the fighting but everything else surrounding it was dragging it down. 

I started sinking serious time into the combo trials where I was given a series of combos to pull off. Dragon Ball FighterZ was the first game I ever managed to complete all the trials for. Some were tough and required a couple of hours of practice but I eventually managed to eke past them all. I found these combos interesting to execute and impressive to watch unfold. It was nice to feel I could graduate from the friendly auto-combos to their real combos with relative ease. 

Having grasped some basics of the game, I decided to try the online. Unfortunately, the online experience was just like every other online fighting game experience I have ever played. I couldn’t translate much of what I learned into the multiplayer due to inconsistent network performance or terrible matchmaking. Even if I managed to get into a high quality match, it would be a fleeting moment that was few and far between. The amount of time that it took find me a match ran into the minutes. There were moments where I spent more time waiting than playing. I tried getting into lobbies but I would either be outmatched ability-wise or we have poor network connection qualities. Just a poor experience all around. 

I turned my attention to the single player offerings which featured a simple arcade mode (without any fun endings) and a story mode which was padded out with far too many filler fights. I grew tired of fighting stupid clones and just wanted to get into the meat of the somewhat decent story. The cutscenes featured the antics and voices from the show and it certainly showcased Akira Toriyama’s art in a very positive light. I honestly think this game surpasses the show with its consistency with quality.  

20 years ago I wished for a Dragon Ball Z fighting game in the same vein of Capcom’s Marvel vs. games and, for better or for worse, I got exactly what I wished for. I can live my wildest DBZ fantasy match ups with Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo and all their iconic foes. Pulling off their trademark ki blasts, beams, combos, and other high flying moves would have blown my adolescent mind. However, I can’t help but think that I should have wished for a little more.  

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Monster Hunter World PS4 Review

My fiancée and I started several games together in 2018 including Destiny 2 and Monster Hunter World. We didn’t finish either of them. The former was a rather boring if I’m being honest. It felt great to play but we didn’t feel engaged to the story or whatever narrative Bungie cobbled together. The latter, we actually enjoyed but well documented issues with its co-op setup made it just a tad too annoying to get back to. (She also doesn’t have her own PlayStation 4 but that’s another issue) 

Monster Hunter World had the two fist bumping and celebrating after each triumphant hunt. The fundamental rules and mechanics of Monster Hunter World were simple to learn. We both took time trying out several weapon types in the training area before committing to one. I gravitated towards the hammer with its thunderous hits while my fiancée eventually settled on the long sword with its flashy finishers. We practiced our moves, checked out YouTube tutorials, and before long, we were on our way to skinning and gutting monsters to satisfy our vanity. 

The hunts were fun. Figuring out how we could tackle each monster or monsters was exciting and rewarding. It was everything else in-between that felt lacking and needlessly convoluted. The main story missions required each of us to have viewed the cutscenes before we could team up. That ludicrous requirement meant that one of us had to jump through the rigmarole of: starting mission, triggering the cutscene, quitting, and waiting for the other person to finish doing the same before we finally unite. I wouldn’t mind it if the cutscenes were worth a watch but they were awful hokey time wasters that added little entertainment value. 

Discovering new hunts and challenges were always welcomed. It forced us to revisit our gear, get into the crafting mechanics, and examining our options. Less thrilling or engaging were Capcom’s attempts on creating cinematic hunts. They asked us to load cannons, shoot spears, and other one-off gimmicks in an effort to bring down these mountain sized monsters. It wasn’t thrilling; it was annoying to jump through these hoops to get back to the real meat of these games.  

I can’t even enjoy those cinematic moments as a voyeur of pretty graphics. To be frank, Monster Hunter World on the PlayStation 4 Pro was not what I consider pretty. The monsters genuinely majestic and awesome but the everything else – particularly the lighting – left a lot to be desired. An uncapped framerate was ideal but it was playable. There were slowdowns but framerate was relatively consistent enough to allow for predictable action.  

The technical issues would have been alleviated by switching to the PC platform where 60 FPS, and sharper visuals would have been possible but my that would have only polished up the technical issues. The various design issues surrounding the excellent core Monster Hunter experience still needs refinements and no amount of PC power could make up for that.  

We can all agree that Destiny 2 is the more polished experience but it didn’t grab either of us like I thought it would. We actually want to spend more time with Monster Hunter World and as evidenced by its monstrous sales, we are not alone. Monster Hunter World was a major step forward for the franchise and when they ironed out the peculiar design decisions in a sequel, it could reach even greater heights.  

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission Review

I’ve grown pessimistic in my old age. I tried virtual reality for the first time with an HTC Vive and some of the quintessential VR titles of the time like Space Pirate Trainer, SuperHot VR, and The Lab. I was impressed with the tech but I didn’t see myself doing any of it for an extended period of time. I saw it like Wii Sports; I didn’t buy a Nintendo Wii for Wii Sports. I waited for Super Mario Galaxy’s impending arrival before I pulled the trigger on a Wii.  

Then Astro Bot: Rescue Mission made waves with many equating it to a Super Mario title. Couple that praise and a very attractive Black Friday deal and I was convinced that I had to own a PlayStation VR.  

I wouldn’t if someone told me Team Awobi were comprised of ex-Nintendo designers. The ideas and nuance demonstrated in Astro Bot: Rescue Mission would not be out of place in a Super Mario title. A straight forward romp through the five worlds filled me with wonderous VR tricks and spectacles. If I just left it at that, I would have come away with a very positive VR experience. I would have collected just enough robots to unlock all the worlds to finish the game.  

I found Astro Bot: Rescue Mission was as much of a demonstration of the DualShock 4 as it was of PlayStation VR. Tight platforming controls on a DualShock 4 controller wasn’t novel but transforming the controller into a water cannon, grappling hook, and other tools made allowed me to interact in the VR space without the need for PlayStation Move controllers. The marriage of a well made platformer with well made VR exclusive gimmicks and abilities brought me an experience that was both deeper and more diverse experiences.  

When I took the next step and approached each level with VR rules and capabilities in mind, I was rewarded with additional robots and other hidden secrets. I was able to deduce the locations of all but a handful of robots and hidden chameleons by peeking a certain way doing what made sense in VR. I looked high, low, behind me, above me, and below me in an effort to find all these living collectibles.  

The hardware powering PlayStation VR wasn’t perfect. A hold of the Options button fixed most of its tracking issues but every once in a while, a full level reload was required to fix the orientation of the DualShock 4. The stylized visuals played to the PlayStation 4 Pro’s strengths; anything too realistic often looked far too grimey on an already less than ideal level of clarity offered by the PlayStation VR’s headset.  

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission convinced me there was a pathway to infuse virtual reality ideas into 3D platforming. It was reminiscent of playing Super Mario Galaxy for the first time. New and refreshing ideas were being introduced right until the very end which meant every play session was filled with joy. It’s the title that I was constantly wanting to rope my significant other, my brother, and anyone who will listen to try. It was genuinely wonderful and should not be missed.

Verdict: 
I loved it

Ratings Guide

Marvel’s Spider-man Review

Insomniac Games’ Spider-man may be my favorite piece of Spider-man content in recent memory. I enjoyed it more than the movies and any other game featuring the web crawler. That’s how good the main story thread was. That’s how good it felt to swing, fight, and be the amazing Spider-man in this game.  

Spider-man was my superhero of choice while growing up. I watched a lot of the Spider-man: Animated Series. I genuinely enjoyed the game of the same name, Spider-man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, and the Dreamcast release of Spider-man by Neversoft. Since then I mostly stayed away from Spider-man games; I barely touched that much lauded Spider-man 2 with its awesome swing mechanics. In fact, the most Spidey action I experienced since the Dreamcast days came by way of the Marvel vs Capcom games.  

This game may not be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but Marvel’s influence and touch was all over it. Spider-man was extremely polished from top to bottom with audio and presentation cues inspired by Marvel’s movies – a notable cameo from those movies even makes it in. Spider-man’s various suits were incredibly detailed and well rendered. I found myself admiring them until the very end of the game.  

By virtue of advancing tech and talent, Spider-man seamlessly transitioned from one acrobatic move to another without missing a gameplay beat. I cannot stress how good Spider-man feels to control. Thanks to the smooth framerate delivery, responsive controls, and stellar motion blur, I forgot that it’s a 30 FPS game.  

Insomniac Games’ created a relatively frictionless experience with Spider-man. The main story thread propelled me forward with ebbs and flows of drama and action. I found their depictions of iconic Spidey characters such as Peter, Mary Jane, and Aunt May to be top notch. Doctor Octavius and Norman Osborn filled their roles well giving them modern updates that gave them depth. In fact, I felt a lot of the Spider-man staples were superbly re-imagined in this game. I have no idea how much of that was lifted from the comics but I felt Insomniac Games made all pieces fit.  

I was glad to see them enter Peter Parker’s life as a young adult trying to navigate life on his own. His origin story is known to everyone by now so there’s no need to revisit it. By the end of the story, Peter grew a bit as a person and learned to trust and respect Mary Jane as a partner and person. I loved how they handled Doctor Octavius and Peter’s relationship. Peter had an admiration, respect, and sympathy for the struggling scientist. It’s a relationship that I’ve never seen depicted before but one that paid off handsomely.  

Analogs to Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games’ combat were apparent, but I would argue that style of combat suits Spider-man better. I never understood why Batman was dashing between enemies so much whereas it makes perfect sense for the agile Spider-man to do so. Spidey had speed, agility, and web shooters to keep him afloat in combat.  

I chose a slightly higher difficulty which packed more punch in behind firearms and melee attacks, but the true challenge in the game came down to numbers. Not even one-on-one boss battles with Spidey’s foes like the Scorpion, Electro, or Shocker were as tough as being outnumbered. The only way to take me down was to just send a torrent of enemies from all sides, at different ranges, with an array of weapons and weaknesses to exploit. Overwhelming me was the only way to take me down. Fortunately, those who are not keen on the combat can thin out enemies with stealth takedowns akin to those that the Dark Knight employed in his adventures. 

Breaking up the action were stealth and exploration segments involving Peter, Mary Jane or Miles Morales. I enjoyed seeing where Peter worked and life on ground level. Some the stealth segments with Mary Jane were stretching it but I was able to work my way through them with relative ease.  

It’s tough to make a city matter when means of travel encourages me to ignore huge swathes of it. I didn’t even realize I could read newspaper headlines until halfway through. There was almost never a reason to set foot on the ground unless I was addressing a crime.  

Filling New York City with meaningful content is tough. Even with giant open world games like Grand Theft Auto, it’s tough use that space effectively. Insomniac Games’ facsimile of Manhattan was convincing enough for a foreigner like myself. Central Park and the Avengers tower were my reference points as I slowly familiarized myself with the city. But like I said, it’s tough to care where I was when all the side activities didn’t reflect the districts I picked them up in or were drowned out by the noise of all the busy work. They really should have focused on quality over quantity here.  

I didn’t see how the developer of Resistance, Ratchet & Clank, and Sunset Overdrive were going to Marvel’s Spider-man justice. I thought Sucker Punch would have been the natural fit considering their pedigree but I gave Insomniac Games the benefit of the doubt and they rewarded my optimism and created the definitive Spider-man experience. There was so much love and care given to every aspect of the web slinger’s life. Not all of it landed

Verdict: 
I loved it

Ratings Guide

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