Resident Evil 2 (2019) Review

Ever since the announcement of Resident Evil 2 remake last year, I had been waiting for its release with great deal of angst. Then I shared my thoughts on why the Resident Evil 2 remake is the best survival horror yet.

Alas, the wait is no more. On 25 January 2019, the game was finally on the shelves of video game stores. I went to buy the game after work that Friday and couldn’t wait to start playing once I got home.

Now for the price tag of nearly $80, it does feel expensive considering that Resident Evil 2 was originally released back in 1998. But this is a remake and not a remaster. Capcom spent resources to re-create the whole game that not only gave it a fresh coat of graphics but also re-imagined what the game could be given the technological advances we have experienced since 1998.

After playing it over the weekend, I’ve got to say it’s definitely worth it.

It uses that 3rd-person, over-the-shoulder view pioneered with Resident Evil 4. That view make the whole gaming experience much closer and intimate while enabling you to see more of the world. The first-person view of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard though definitely increase the horror factor you experience because you can’t see what’s behind you, it doesn’t offer the same amount of tension. Just imagine what’s it like to see what’s coming at you but you can’t do shit about it because you ran out of ammunition for your weapons. Your only option was to run. In first-person mode, well, if you can’t see it, you aren’t scared of it.

To add to the tension is the game’s effective implementation of limited resources and require you to ration. There is no way you can shoot your way out of every situation. First, it takes a lot of bullet to take out a zombie. You can attempt to shoot out their limbs (looks like it takes a page out of the Dead Space playbook) to limit the zombie’s mobility but it takes up to five shots to take out a leg. Three to five head shots can take down a zombie but it doesn’t kill them. And it’s really down to chance if you can make a zombie head explode with just a single shot. For other enemies, it require a bigger weapon to take them down and ammunition for those weapon are actually even more limited. So you are better off running away.

The game also had great audio in terms of implementation and quality. Take Mr. X for example especially in the later part of the game. For those uninitiated, Mr. X is a humanoid bio-organic weapon whose sole purpose is to kill you in the game. Due to its size, every step it takes actually generate fear-inducing thump. And even if it is not in the same room as you, you can hear it moving around. There was this one situation where I’m in a room on the first floor and it is in the room directly above. I could hear the stomping sound and made me want to stay where I was, not wanting to go up for fear of encountering him. Not only that, you can also hear the groans and moans of zombies through the walls when they are hunting you. Furthermore, the music is done very well to shape the feelings you get as you move from a safe room to an open corridor.

As for the graphics, the RE engine has definitely allow for a much more realistic world. Now, the key to good graphics is lighting just like in photography. The placement of lights, how they reflect off surfaces and how they make objects look affect how you feel about a particular scene. In Resident Evil 2, the way lights are placed and how they light the world up actually make you feel like you are truly in a place where dangers lurk in every corner. If not that, they did a great job of setting the scene to make you feel like it’s a bad place to be in.

Not only that, weapon damage done to enemies are also visible and make you feel like you are making an effort to kill or injure your enemy. Let’s take this image of me having killed a zombie after dropping it to the ground with headshot and slicing it with the knife until it’s dead.

Look at the slashing damage on the body. Look at that arm. It has fallen off. This is the kind of realism that I look for in a game like Resident Evil 2. I want to feel like I’m doing something to my enemies.

Last but not least, the cutscenes are also well done in terms of fluidity, how it showcases their vulnerability and how well it transit from gameplay and back again. The characters’ voice actings are also pretty good by how they interact with each other and how they show that they are afraid in real time. There are quite a lot of times when the game character, Leon, was cursing and swearing as he tries to take down enemies or when he was being chased.

Even though I spent only a few hours on it, I’m glad that I was right that it’s definitely the survival horror game to play. There are so many times when I actually just want to put down my controller because it got all wet from my excessive sweat due to all the tension and anxiety. My heart was actually thumping pretty hard in certain area of the game and I lost count of how often I didn’t want to enter a new room because I’m not sure what I would expect. Yet, I still want to play the game despite my fears based on how often it’s hanging around in my mind. I’m always thinking about the game, having the urge to pick up the controller again even though I’ve put it aside to do other things.

Too much of anything is bad

You love ice cream. So much so that you thought you don’t mind eating it every day and having it after every meal. Before you know it, your weight increases and start to develop sickness deep inside of you. If you continued down that path, the sickness will only worsen. Heart disease, diabetes, and various other issues will crop up.

It’s the same thing as everything you do in life.

In my case, there’s something I did that affected my writing although you may not see it given that I’ve published something almost every day. But deep down, I know something’s not right.

There isn’t much inspirations or ideas floating around in my head to write about these days. I had to sit at my desk doing a whole bunch of other stuff before I can settle down to write something. Even when I do start, the topic elude me until much later during the writing process. Instead of entering into the zone or flow state, there’s a lot of writing and editing on the fly. Lucky for me, I’ve honed my writing muscles far enough that I could do both without obvious slow down.

But it’s something that need to be fixed. So I did a quick audit of what’s going on in my life.

Turns out, I’ve spent too much time consuming content. Again. By that, it could mean watching videos, listening to music or playing video games. And the latter is the one that’s main cause.

Ever since I got Nintendo Switch, it would be in my hand at least once a day for a couple of hours. Because of the amount of time I’ve spent playing first-person shooter on it, specifically Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, I’ve gotten pretty good at shooting enemies despite the weird placement of joysticks (compared to the Xbox). I am able to have the crosshair follow enemies as they moved while another finger is on the trigger button. When I first started, I’ve a real hard time doing even basic shooting.

Sound great? Yeah, it’s good that I gotten a new skill. But it came at the expense of having ideas for writing.

And do you know why playing so much games created this sickness of not having ideas to write about?

Playing games, most of the time, is actually pretty mindless. Especially if it’s a shooter game where all you need to do is kill enemies, reach objectives. Rinse, rise, and repeat. So where’s the thinking in that?

But not all is lost.

The moment you realise something is wrong, you can take control back. The one thing you could do is to cut back on the amount of time you spend doing that one thing. Yes, it’s painful when you have to cut back because you have been getting all those dopamine coursing through your mind. But it has to be done in order to achieve something you want in your life.

With that, I end off with something any minimalist would say, “Less is more.”

Nintendo Switch follow-up review

A few days ago I got myself a Nintendo Switch, did a basic unboxing and gave my initial thoughts.

Since then, I’ve been playing Diablo 3 on it and with it, I can better determine the pros and cons of the device.

First is the audio. Even though the speakers are capable of producing stereo sounds, at three-quarter of volume setting, they still sound a little weak when it comes to the higher ranges and bass. They aren’t as crisp or punchy as I would like. Maybe it’s because I’m spoilt by the speakers found on the iPhone X and iPad Pro where playing music through those would make you want to move and dance along.

And if you are attempting to play games on the device in a rather noisy environment, chances are you won’t be able to enjoy the audio properly. But the good thing is that it has a 3.5 mm audio port for you to connect an earphone, headphone or maybe even speakers to it as you play. That way, you can use a sound-cancelling earphone or headphones when you in a noisy environment or when you don’t want to announce to the whole world you are gaming in public.

There is one good thing when you attempt to raise the volume higher than 3/4 of the way when an earphone is connected. The device will actually warn you about possible ear injury when it’s too loud. And it actually stop me from attempting to push the volume any higher to compensate for noise generated by the train as it moves.

The other thing I found problematic with the audio was its lack of support for bluetooth audio. I use AirPods with my iPhone whenever I’m outside to listen to music, take on phone calls, etc. There are times when I want to play games on the Switch but I found myself having to put the AirPods back into storage and pull out the 3.5 mm wired earphones from my back before I could start playing. To play Switch I need to switch my audio output device. Nice one. To me, it’s just a hassle. That means I could I only take out the Switch when I’m seated or in a less crowded area. And if I’m on the train, I would have a hard time pulling out the earphone from my bag since it would be pack with people especially during rush hour. It was during moments like this I just wish there’s support for Bluetooth audio. And yes, I’ve been spoilt by Apple’s seamless experience when it comes to their products.

Next is the display.

Although you won’t be able to see individual pixels when you play games due to the 237 pixels per inch 6.2inch display, it’s just not that bright. So when you play games in a bright environment, you may have to increase the brightness. In turn, it will drain the battery faster and reduce your overall play time. But I didn’t go that route so I have to find a corner that’s darker to play my games or squint my eyes.

But I definitely like the screen size. It’s the sweet spot. Come to think of it, the iPhone XS Max also features a 6.2 inch display that’s nearly edge to edge. But sadly, the notch just is too distracting especially if you are gaming on it. Besides, the iPhone doesn’t have games like Diablo 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or even Doom on it. So that’s where the comparison ends.

The other issue was the lack of P3 colour gamut. Considering that we are now into 2018 and since then there has been various consumer-grade devices featuring P3 colour-gamut capable display starting with the iMac back in 2015, I don’t see why Nintendo didn’t put that in. It could have help to make Mario and friends look way more vibrant and colourful.

Lastly, it’s the bezel. It’s rather big by 2017 standard. Maybe Nintendo could find a way to reduce the bezel by another 10% or 20% and make use of those free space. When that happens, it would be more enjoyable.

The other thing I want to mention is the battery life. Even though it’s advertised that it can allow up to 6 hour of game time, when I was playing diablo 3, I find the device down to 15% of battery after about 4 hours. And that was spread across the whole day since I only play games while I’m on the train or when I get home. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I’m playing games like Doom (2016) on it.

But so far, I didn’t face the problem of running out battery when I’m on the go. Even then, I don’t really need to fear because I got myself a 20,000 mAh Power Bank that is more than capable of charging up a Nintendo Switch over USB-C. Based on the specification of the power bank, I can charge the device up to three times.

Now, despite all the so call flaws I mentioned, I still love the device because it is the only one so far that allow me to use conventional buttons to play serious games on the go. I just never quite like using touchscreen to play games because of the lack of tactile feedback. I want to know and feel that I have pressed a button. And it’s really satisfying when the game you play is all about button smashing. A touchscreen display can never give you that.

And if Sony Or Microsoft can develop and release their own version of the Switch with Xbox One X processing power that runs on battery in the same form factor, it could be really interesting. Imagine playing Horizon Zero Dawn on a handheld device without any graphical sacrifice.

My unboxing of and initial thought about Nintendo Switch

As a gamer, I rarely consider Nintendo gaming platform at the forefront of my thought. Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation have always been the platform that I’ll go for because of the more mature, serious games that are available. Nintendo has built itself to be the family-oriented gaming company. The games running on its platform are generally playable by everyone.

And today, I went and get Nintendo Switch because of how I felt when I was spending the past few days, playing Command and Conquer: Rivals on my phone. I came to the realisation that I never quite like gaming on phones. Despite the power of iPhone X’s 5.8 inch OLED HDR display, I found it to be too small. And iPad as a portable gaming machine is too big. Hell, even the iPhone Xs Max is too small as a gaming machine. And no, I won’t even go into Android devices because I don’t like Android as a platform.

Before I start mentioning about my thoughts about the console, let me show you what I got.

Nintendo Switch on my bedroom floor.

I also bought the official Nintendo storage box for the Switch so that I can bring the console out safely in a bag.

And two games that I want to play for now. There are some other games that I’d like to play but there aren’t any stock.

Now let’s get down with basic unboxing.

When you first open up the box, you are greeted with the Joy-Con controller and the main device wrapped in plastic. When I bought the device, one of the shop staff helped me to install the screen protector. So the plastic wraps were undone. If it’s a new set and never been open before, you probably won’t get them in this state.

After taking off the plastic wraps, here are the Joy-con and Switch exposed.

Look at how adorable those Joy-Con. And definitely way better than Wii Remote.

Now, I didn’t go with the red and blue Joy-Con because I prefer a simplistic, one colour design. It’s the minimalistic mindset in me.

I didn’t take any more picture of the unboxing process. Instead, I dived in to grab the power cable.

After fitting the JoyCon onto the main display, holding it in my hands for the first time, it sure remind me of the original Sony PSP that I got at least ten years ago. It’s definitely feel just right. Not too big, not too small.

And I’m sorry Apple. Despite me being a fan of your products, the iPad with its fancy AR capabilities just don’t cut it for me. I prefer a specialised device with 2D dimensional display. If you spent the attention and money to making a pure gaming device, I’m sure you would outdo the competition.

But, I digress.

So after I pressed on the power button, I realise the battery was running a little low. Plugged in to the power socket it went. And I decided to charge it on my bed since I’m out of power sockets on my desk. While it was charging, I also updated the OS to the latest version.

And here is the device on my bed connected to the USB-C charging cable.

The 6.2 inch display at 1280×720, though not comparable to an iPhone display, it’s wide enough for me to enjoy games without me needing to put the device close to my face.

Also, the graphic and text didn’t look too blurry. You can make out the words on it just fine. It’s acceptable to me considering I play games on my Xbox and PS4 at 1080p instead of 4K.

The colours definitely didn’t look like it’s the best in the world but it’s also fine by me for a simple gaming device.

I have yet started gaming on it because I was spending my night writing this article and watching some anime on Netflix. So I don’t have any comments on the gaming aspect, the audio or how the controls feel.

And I decided to go back to do a quick unpack of the main stuff. Here are the charging grip and docking station.

About those two items, I doubt I will use them because it’s my intention to play my games on the go. If I want to play games on my TV, it probably means I want to do some serious gaming and I got my PS4 and Xbox for that.

What I learnt about myself from playing Halo

I love Halo franchise because of its nature as a science fiction. Furthermore, the Halo universe is vast and very suitable for all kinds of stories to be told from different perspective.

Because of that, I decided to spend SG$700 on Xbox One X and buy all the Halo games for it for another SG$100 or so. Then I spent the last five days playing the first two games and didn’t really find the desire to watch any shows or do any writing. But I did take time to reflect and that’s how I figured out, discovered and re-discovered things about myself, and about writing science fiction in general.

Number 1

It made me realize that I was a minimalist all along. The kind of minimalist where I focus on only a few things: gaming, writing, reading, and gadgets that improves my quality of life. Throughout my life, I have in fact spent the most time, effort and money on those three things and nothing else. As long as I have access to those, I’m extremely grateful and happy. I never for once felt unhappy about having too many video games, too many books or gadgets. I can even stop buying new clothes for years or skip eating nice food just so that I can get stuff related to any of the four. But I also recognize that I will need to purge old unusable gadgets, video games or books that I no longer read so that I have space for the new stuff.

Number 2

Writing science fiction is something that you can’t jump straight in without a plan, especially if you want to write something on the scale like Halo or even anywhere close. It is just not possible. I learnt my lesson the hard way. There are countless writing projects that I have abandoned because I didn’t plan and only got down to write because I have this sudden urge to do so. Now, I will draft stuff related to the science fiction universe that I want to create in bits and pieces to keep me going. And yes, I do have a science fiction universe that I wanted to create since I was twenty and I’m doing the planning, writing and any other activities I deem necessary to the successful completion of the project.

Number 3

There are times when I actually doubt my ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time because of my tendency to seek the new, the shiny or the novel. But the truth is, I can go all the way into something for days without being bored if that something inspires me greatly and keep me engaged. I can actually apply the same kind of laser focus on the things I work on without being bored or frustrated if I set my mind correctly.

Number 4

My highly-sensitive nature also shows when I’m playing this game. Since I play the game after a long work day, my attention, reaction time, and hand-eye coordination ability are down to the lowest of low. Yet, it prevents me from sleeping well at night because of excessive simulation of my brain.

Number 5

This is related to number 4. I do get frustrated from time to time when I have to deal with a lot. Like the alien Flood. They are countless and love to swarm you from many directions. I lost track of how often I became irritated by the constant need to aim my guns at new enemy. And because of my nature to focus and go deep in, switching my attention constantly make me tired even faster. But I see it as a good training tool. Train myself to be even more resilient and have the ability to enter focus mode faster. I would say it hasn’t been successful. It still take me half an hour to go deep into something when it comes to work.