Weekend Whammy: PS5 Console Impressions, & Valhalla Impressions

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Okay, so at what point does the next-gen become current-gen? Because, obviously both the new Xbox and new Playstation are out and while you can’t buy them easily they technically are the current-gen now, aren’t they? And the PS4 and the Xbox One are last-gen, surely? And yet…I still find myself using the term “next-gen” when talking about the PS5 and Series X/S. And lots of articles on the web still use the term as well. So that’s my question of the week folks: is it current-gen or next-gen? What are we living in!? I’M SO CONFUSED!

So at this point I’ve had my Playstation 5 for 10-days and I’ve used it to play through all of Miles Morales for the review, most of Astro Bot, a good chunk of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (25-hours) and a small bit of Bugsnax, a game which might take the title of the most horrifying game of all time *shudders*. I’m planning on writing my full review of the machine soon, but for now I’ll share a couple of quick thoughts. My overall feelings have been really positive and I’ve gotten lucky in that I’ve not experienced any of the major issues being reported by others. The most serious things I’ve encountered being quite a few crashes, the front USB port not charging the controller and a slight buzz coming from the console that might be coil whine, although some people have reported it might be caused by a sticker, of all the things, hitting the fan. If that’s the case it’s apparently an easy fix, but doing so also voids the warranty.

I’ve got an NVME drive in my PC for gaming so quick loading times aren’t new to me, but that hasn’t stopped me from being ultra-impressed when I sit down to play on the TV and can go from cold boot to playing something like Valhalla in 30-seconds. It makes a huge difference to fast-travelling in open-world games, too. Miles Morales was a case of fade to black, fade back in and WHAM! You’re there. Valhalla takes maybe 5-10 seconds on average. It’s awesome.

The Dualsense controller is spectacular, and Astro’s Playroom is a sublime little experience that not only lets Sony flex the Dualsense’s haptics and adaptive triggers but also acts as a good game in its own right. The controller is so comfy to hold thanks to its new curves, and when you first feel a bite point in the trigger or firm resistance it’s amazing. And the way the haptic can create so many sensations for your hands is excellent. I just hope we see plenty of support for these features outside of Sony titles. There’s a real risk that multiplatform games won’t use the haptics and the adaptive triggers because the developers don’t want the spent the extra time and money to do it. After all, we have seen stuff like this fall by the wayside before. I also need to check out some other genres, like I’ve heard DiRT 5 (which I reviewed and liked a lot) and WRC 9 both make great use of the adaptive triggers, as does thethe new Call of Duty.

I’m really loving that the Playstation store is now baked into the operating system too, so combined with the super-speedy drive jumping into the store is now so much easier and faster. I genuinely hated loading up the store on the PS4 because it took ages. Now, I can see myself having a quick look at the store just to see if there’s anything worth checking out, whereas on the PS4 I would never bother unless I wanted something specific.

I do have some niggles with the console, like how getting to your friends list is a pain in the butt or that browsing trophies is a bit awkward. I’m also not a fan of the fact that they changed turning the console off from holding down the Playstation button to pressing it and scrolling always to the right. It feels like a case of changing things for the sake of changing them rather than because the changes would make life easier or better. But these are quite small complaints and might all be fixed through updates down the line.

There’s some little things I love about the U.I., too, like how when you scroll over to a game the background changes to an image from said game and some of the game’s music plays. It’s just interesting to see Sony decide to completely overhaul their U.I. for the PS5 so that they it feels new and exciting, while Microsoft opted to keep their U.I. the same across generations so that people feel comfortable jumping straight in. Two very different thought processes by the designs, both having some pros and cons.

So yeah, overall the PS5 is a strong console, but I admit that my excitement for it has died off faster than I thought it would. I think if I wasn’t so determined to get a PS5 for my website, I’d be okay with having a PS4 for a while yet, maybe even a full year or so until more games were out. It’s great having the better performance and everything, but if you haven’t been able to snag a PS5 I’d say don’t worry about it – there’s loads of PS4 games to play and most of the new titles aren’t exclusive to the PS5 outside of Demon Souls.

Speaking of which, am I the only one that finds it funny that after all of Sony’s spiel about believing in console generations, the only actual PS5 exclusive is a remake of a PS3 game? That’s not a knock on Demon Souls or anything, I just find it kind of amusing.

The game I’ve played the most so far is easily Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. According to the developers its a shorter game that the mammoth AC: Odyssey, but so far I can’t say I’ve noticed: I’m 25-hours in and the end is nowhere in sight. But, y’know, Vikings are cool, man.

This is the third AC game in the new formula that has taken the series even further away from the core tenants of what Assassin’s Creed is, and I still lament that loss. You’re not an assassin these days, you’re a kick-ass warrior who just so happy to be able to assassinate people. The emphasis on gathering clues, sneaking in, performing a clean kill and getting out is better served in something like Hitman 2, these days.

With that said, the new formula has a lot to like, too, mostly that it’s like a giant RPG that you can literally get lost in. I’ve been having some major fun raiding monasteries for the resources to build up my settlement and hunting down cool gear to wear.

I’d have to say that Valhalla has been the buggiest experience I’ve had this year so far, though. There’s the usual barrage of Ubisoft jank to admire such as scores of little visual bugs that constantly make the world look like it’s roughly 2-seconds apart from exploding at any given time. But I’ve also hit a couple of more serious issues, including one that’s stopping me from beginning the Lunden story arc. As I reach the gates of Lunden city the screen goes black and the loading screen pops up, at which point it’s supposed to jump into a short cutscene that leads into a fist-fight. But for me, the game loads back and I can’t move or do anything. All I can do is turn the camera. Meanwhile, I’ve run into three world events quests I can’t complete due to bugs as well.

Valhalla also just feels clumsy. It can be a beautiful game, but the animations are stiff, watching a horse going over obstacles is laughably clunky, NPCs will interact with each other and obstacles in strange ways or climb over walls randomly, the parkour system remains fiddly when you try to do anything specific. After playing something so polished like Spider-Man: Miles Morales the Ubisoft games feel like they’re being held together with duct tape, spit and the desperation of people trying to stick to Ubisoft’s game design template.

Speaking of Miles Morales, I’m debating whether I’m going to either sell it in order to recoup some cash or if I’m going to aim for my first platinum trophy by playing through New Game+ all the way. I reckon I could wrap that up quite quickly, and it’d be cool to have a platinum on a game I really loved rather than getting one accidentally at some point on something terrible.

But back to Valhalla, briefly. I encountered Flyting battles in the game where you trade jibes and insults with other people through a rhythmic battle of words. As it turns out, Flyting was a very real thing in 15th and 16th century England and Scotland where it was often used as entertainment with the watching crowd judging. The most famous case was The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie in the 16th century and contained such brilliant lines as, “Hail, Monsignor! Your balls droop below your dress.” You can read the entire translated version HERE. It’s a good way to learn some new insults.

But Flyting did actually exist long before this, going back as far as the 9th century. It’s the word itself that seems to have stemmed from old English, but the concept was around in Norse mythology. It’s fascinating stuff to read about.

A lot of people are describing flyting in AC: Valhalla as being like rap battles, and I’d say that’s an apt description. It’d be awesome if Eminem could travel back in time and hurl some word-pain.

I wanted to wrap up this week with an intriguing article over at Eurogamer where Sara Thompson came to the realization that Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher is arguably disabled, something which the books explore but that the game’s don’t. Geralt suffers from a lot of pain in his joints, and despite being healed numerous times he’s never cured of this, and actually learns to adjust the way he fights and does things to compensate. On top of that he also has a bunch of other massive issues like nerve damage, mental trauma and more. The topic has gotten a lot of criticism claiming that Geralt isn’t disabled and that its another case of pandering. Now, I’m quite outspoken in regards to things like this thanks to the mass media being obsessed with cramming in token characters, but in this instance I think Sara Thompson is absolutely right, based on everything we know about Geralt. Moreover, it adds a cool extra layer to Geralt, because it makes him even more badass. Anyway, check out the article and let me know what you thing. This one interests me because I’m technically classed as disabled due to my CF but its not a term I use in regard to myself simply because I’m never really sure what defines someone being disabled. It’s a weird one, ya know. Like, it feels like I’m disrespecting other folk by claiming that I’m disabled.

Anyway, that’ll do it for now. If you feel like helping out me and the site a bit you can through the Paypal thingy below, I really appreciate it.

Play hard, stay safe.

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