Propagation: Paradise Hotel - title

Wow, this game was not at all what I expected -- but in a very good way!

When I first put Propagation: Paradise Hotel on my PSVR2 wishlist, I expected it would be more of a point-and-click puzzle-based walking-sim kind of game with some rudimentary zombie shooting. I was not expecting a full-fledged survival horror game with robust, immersive combat mechanics and open-ended exploration. And I sure as hell was not expecting the game to be nearly as intense or difficult as it proved to be. If you're squeamish about horror in the slightest, you probably want to stay far away from this game.

And when I say that Paradise Hotel is a "full-fledged survival horror game", I mean that it very blatantly evokes old school, classic survival horror design philosophies. Honestly, if somebody caught glimpses of you playing bits and pieces of this game, they could be forgiven for thinking that you were playing a VR adaptation of Resident Evil. Paradise Hotel draws very clear inspirations from the first Resident Evil game on the original PlayStation. From the hotel lobby that looks strikingly like the foyer of the Spencer Mansion, to the use and placement of save rooms, to the use of a first aid spray can for healing, to one particular enemy type that is the spitting image of a Tyrant, to the pacing of early-game exploration and puzzle-solving, Propagation: Paradise Hotel really does feel like a modern-day VR homage to the classic Resident Evil. And for the most part, I think the developers and designers at Wanadev Studio nailed all of it!

Paradise Hotel is deliberately evocative of the original Resident Evil.

At least, they nail the first half of the game or so. The second half of this short horror VR title is a little bit more shaky and uneven. It's still good! Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I think the game falls apart in the second half and becomes bad. It's good all the way through. The second half just diverges from the slower, methodical, exploratory play that perfectly captures the essence of retro survival horror, and starts to feel more like a borderline-unfairly-hard corridor-crawling action shooter.

Oh, and I want to apologize in advance for the poor quality of most of my screenshots. This game is incredibly dark. It looks fine in the VR headset, and the darkness makes the flashlight into a legitimately necessary tool. But all the streaming footage and screenshots that I captured are almost completely illegible. I couldn't find an in-game brightness setting, and the PSVR2's system brightness was at max, so I'm not sure what to do to get better screenshots and video capture. I tried increasing the brightness of the screenshots in Photoshop, but this left the screenshots looking washed out. So I promise you, the actual game looks a lot better than the screenshots in this review make it look. Maybe I need to disable HDR if I want screenshots and captured video to be legible?

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College football is coming back

I can't believe it's finally actually happening. EA Sports is finally releasing another college football game. After 10 years of having nothing but Madden, fans of video game football will finally have another big-budget, AAA football game to play. Yeah, sure, it's still from EA -- it's not like this is a new 2k football game or anything -- but it's something.

EA has released 2 trailers for EA Sports College Football 25. The first one was just a teaser, with a spokesperson talking about how excited they are to be back, and how much they love college football, how they've listened to feedback, and how committed they supposedly are to making the best game possible. I didn't talk about that initial trailer because there wasn't much to say about it. It was just a bunch of promises from a company that has not done anything in the past 20 years to make their promises mean anything.

The first teaser for EA Sports College Football did not show anything of substance.

Basically, my reaction to that initial teaser, and its promise to deliver "the game this sport deserves" was "Uh huh, sure. I'll believe it when I see it."

Well, now there is an actual gameplay trailer that shows us something of substance. And it's actually pretty good. Honestly, this trailer is better than I expected it to be. Much to my surprise, it did give me some nostalgic goosebumps.

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Star Trek: Infinite - title

When Infinite was first announced, I (and many others) had assumed that it would just be an official release of the New Horizons total conversion mod for Stellaris. That mod was huge, offering tons of factions and covering the entire breadth of Star Trek canon from the Original Series all the way through Discovery (and even some Kelvin-verse-inspired content). Unfortunately, that ended up not being the case, and Star Trek: Infinite proves to be a major downgrade from New Horizons.

The "New Horizons" mod for Stellaris included all eras of Star Trek.

Despite its title, Star Trek: Infinite is surprisingly scaled back in scope. It only includes the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, and only 4 playable factions: the Federation, Klingons, Romulans, and Cardassians. I understand not including factions like the Dominion and Borg as playable factions. They actually make more sense as a form of "final boss" that invades the Alpha or Beta Quadrants to provide a late-game challenge that could help make the end-game of a 4-x strategy less tedious, less easy, and more interesting. And I also understand not including smaller, "alien-of-the-week" factions like the Gorn, Tholian, or Sheliak as playable factions. Although I wish more of them would show up as NPC factions. But I really think that factions like the Ferengi Alliance and maybe even the Breen should have been included. The Federation is peaceful and diplomatic, while the other 3 factions are (broadly speaking) different flavors of militaristic. The mercantile, yet exploitative trade-based play style of the Ferengi would have been a good change of pace from the other factions.

Worse yet, however, is that Infinite doesn't cover the breadth of Star Trek history that I had hoped it would. The game begins with the Romulan attack on Khitomer, for which Worf's father was framed, and shortly after the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. And [spoiler alert!] the Borg start appearing at the fringes of Federation and Romulan space within an hour or 2 of starting a new game. It takes place entirely within the scope of The Next Generation, and does not contain any content from Enterprise, The Original Series, or the "lost era" between The Undiscovered Country and Next Generation.

Star Trek: Infinite is limited in scope,
taking place entirely within TNG era, and having only 4 playable factions.

Unfortunately, Paradox killed support for this game prematurely, and it will not be seeing any additional updates or DLC. Initially, I had expected to see a lot of DLC that would fill in the gaps, because Paradox has always been known for the ridiculous amount of DLC that they always sell for their games. I expected to see DLC packs that would push the start of the game back to the 22nd or 23rd centuries and include Enterprise, Original Series, and "Lost Era" ships and storylines. I thought maybe we would see factions like the Ferengi, Gorn, Tholians, Kzinti, Xindi, Sheliak, and maybe even the Vulcans and Andorians show up as playable factions. And I had also anticipated expansions that might add Gamma and Delta Quadrant content, such as playable Dominion, Breen, Kazon, Vidiian, Krenim, Hirogen, and maybe even Borg factions, while also expanding the size of the galaxy.

But now, none of that is going to happen, and the only way Infinite will see any new content is if modders decide to take on these tasks. It would be cool if the "New Horizons" modders would move some (or all) of their content into Star Trek: Infinite, as it might give this game a new life, and help it live up to its true potential as an era-spanning Star Trek grand strategy game.

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Project Wingman: Frontline-59 - title

To be considered an "ace", a pilot usually only has to shoot down between 5 and 10 enemy aircraft in a single campaign. A player of an aerial dogfighting video game will usually do this 4 or 5 times over within the first mission. Project Wingman is no exception. So if you're looking for a "simulation" flight sim, then this definitely ain't it. Project Wingman is thoroughly in the category of a casual dogfighting flight sim. It isn't a completely "arcade" dogfighter either, because it does use realistic flight controls and maneuvers, with the player having control of pitch and roll on one stick, and yaw being controlled with shoulder button "rudders".

In typical casual flight sim form, you'll also have dozens of respawning missiles and bombs strapped to the wings of your plane, even though the actual plane model only has like 6 or so. But shooting down enemy planes with the main guns isn't super difficult, with even a tiny bit of rudder practice. I had to retry the first mission I tried (in the VR campaign) because I ran out of ammo. But with more judicious use of my guns in the retry, I cleared the mission with well over a third of my bullets left.

Only the Frontline-59 expansion missions are playable in VR.

But I didn't buy this game to simply play a console dogfighting game. I bought it because I wanted to play with my PSVR2 headset and Thrustmaster HOTAS flight stick. But the game is not entirely VR-compatible on PS5. Only the handful of missions in the "Frontline-59" campaign missions are playable in VR. The actual main game is not playable in VR at all. Worse yet, Project Wingman doesn't seem to support the HOTAS flight stick at all!

It would be nice if I could use the flight stick, and simply map its inputs to gamepad functions (which is possible to do on Steam with un-supported controller peripherals), but as far as I can tell, neither the PS5 nor the game allow this. So I have an expensive flight stick that I now know cannot be used with games unless the game explicitly includes support for it. Score one more for the "PC master race".

After booting up the game and discovering that Project Wingman doesn't fully support PSVR2, and doesn't support the HOTAS flight stick at all, I strongly considered trying to refund the game. And if I had bought the game on Steam, with its generous refund policy, I would have. But I bought the game on PS5, and Sony's refund policy is less generous. If you play the game at all, it is not eligible for a refund unless it is "faulty". So I was stuck with it, and decided to play it anyway. Score a second point for the "PC master race".

I was excited for some kick-ass VR dogfighting action with a flight stick.
Boy was I disappointed!

I'm now seriously doubting if the investment in the PSVR2 headset is going to prove to be worth it in the long run. Just like with Green Hell VR, the PSVR2 version of a game is severely limited in a technical sense, even though the full game is playable in VR on PC. Are developers constraining the PSVR2 versions of their games simply because they lack the motivation or budget to add full support? Or is there some technical limitation of the PSVR2 headset that makes these game impossible to be fully playable in VR on the PS5? Is the PSVR2 going to be a viable VR system in the long run?

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I've always seen Fallout as a bleak and cynical video game series. Yes, it has humor, but that humor is, itself, very dark and cynical. As such, the goofy, slapstick humor of the early episodes of Amazon Prime's Fallout TV show were a bit off-putting for me.

Around episode 3 or 4, however, the tone begins to shift. From then on, this show is Fallout through and through. It is violent. It is graphic. It is cynical.

Amazon did a fantastic job with the cast. Ella Purnell is fantastic as the innocent and naïve vault-dweller (named Lucy) who serves as the audience surrogate for exploring this world, as well as an adaptation of the player avatar for all of us who tried to play the first game's Vault-Dweller in a "good karma" playthrough. Aaron Clifton Moten has a weird, detached quality to his performance as Maximus, as if Maximus is half sleep-walking through the events. As weird as the performance is, it does give a genuine sense that Maximus is just completely callous and desensitized to the violence and cruelty of the Wasteland, and he only ever seems to perk up when that cruelty gives way to some kind of comfort or happiness.

The side characters are also well cast and entertaining. From Kyle MacLachlan's vault-daddy, to Matt Berry as the voice of the Mr. Handy robots, and all the Wasteland inhabitants and vault-dwellers in between, everybody is great.

But the real show-stealer is Walton Goggins as the movie cowboy-turned-ghoul bounty hunter Cooper Howard. He steals every scene he's in, and gives off just the right combination of confidence, charm, and antagonism befitting such a gun-slinging cowboy anti-hero. We also see empathy and vulnerability in his character, especially in the flashbacks to the pre-war times.

Fallout (Amazon) - Walton Goggins as Cooper Howard © Amazon.
Walton Goggins steals the show, even if his make-up leaves a little to be desired.

The lower budget of a TV show does make itself apparent with some of the makeup effects and one character's digital de-aging effect looking pretty bad. Walton Goggin's ghoul makeup looks more like he's cosplaying the Red Skull than being one of the rotting zombies wandering the wastes. I'm wondering if this was the result of a contractual requirement that the actor's makeup not be too uncomfortable or hide too much of his face, because other ghoul characters and extras that we see in the later episodes look pretty ghoulish.

But other than that, the show looks good. The Wasteland has that eerie beauty that we come to expect from a post-apocalyptic landscape. Whatever money was saved on Walton Goggins' makeup must have been spent on the Power Armor costumes. The Power Armor costumes look fantastic and move surprisingly well for being such a large and bulky practical effect. Being an actual costume (or maybe a puppet?), the Power Armor has an appropriate dirty and weathered look to it, and doesn't clash with the scenery in the way I usually expect a CG character to look.

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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