PS5 and Xbox: time for some fun
After a week of intense political anxiety, take a break read about fun things
[Hi, I’m Chris Plante, and you’re reading Postgame, a weekly newsletter collecting the best games, stories, and videos in the video game community into a fun, digestible package on Sunday mornings. Learn more on the Postgame About page. Postgame is usually edited by Stephie Grob Plante, but she’s on a road trip so I’m all alone this week! Want to support Postgame? Please share it with a friend! Or even better, visit my work-home at Polygon.com!]
What a week.
I imagine y’all are fried from days of refreshing election news. Hopefully, you’re waking up from your first restful sleep in days, rejuvenated, ready for something fun. Remember fun?
I come to you from the future, having played the next-generation of consoles for the past month. And let me tell ya: I found fun.
Xbox Series X/S
On the Xbox Series X:
“The Xbox Series X isn’t the home of Microsoft’s gaming universe; it’s just one of many nodes, connecting outward to your phone, your tablet, your computer, or just a different (and cheaper) Xbox. It’s not the place to play video games. It’s a place to play video games — not only from the future, but also from the present and the past.” (Me, Polygon)
“Ultimately, I believe that in Series X, Microsoft has indeed delivered an excellent next-generation system - but one that likely won't show its many strengths at launch.” (Richard Leadbetter, Eurogamer)
On the Xbox Series S:
“If you’re like I was at age 19, you have a decent laptop, a friend’s hand-me-down monitor, and a desire to play the next Halo on the next Xbox, if only it didn’t cost so much. You care about frame rates and resolution, but mostly, you want a fun toy that lets you play a lot of cool games (including new and upcoming ones). Maybe you can afford to pay $299.99 right now, and after several months of saving up, you’ll grab the $219.99 extra storage — but you can’t justify spending $499 on the bigger Xbox right out of the gate. Especially if you want to be able to afford an ongoing Xbox Game Pass subscription. If that all sounds like you — and you also can’t remember the last time you needed a disc drive — then you’re the target market for the Xbox Series S.” (Maddy Myers, Polygon)
“The Series S shares most of the same internal components as the larger Series X. That means you get load time improvements, games that run smoother, and the promise of up to 120fps in certain titles. The big difference is the GPU power involved, which, in reality, means most people will need to pair this tiny Xbox with a 1080p TV or monitor. This is a console for those who don’t care about 4K, but questions over its capabilities still remain for me. Will this console hold back next-gen games? Will it do ray tracing well? Will it hit 1440p?” (Tom Warren, The Verge)
“The Xbox Series S has some serious performance firepower in a small, budget-friendly box. It’s perfect for casual gamers who aren’t 4K obsessed to jump into next gen game play and just have fun! It’s perfect for people or families who are on a strict budget. It’s even perfect for people who own a PlayStation 5 but still want to keep a bit of Xbox in their lives.” (Robin Gray, Gayming Mag)
“The PlayStation 5 isn’t going to be the alpha and the omega of your entertainment ecosystem, but it will make games faster, smoother, and more striking, and that’s all I really want from it.” (Chelsea Stark, Polygon)
“Physically, the PS5 is a brash, intimidating piece of hardware, one that is clearly meant to signal a major shift. But underneath, its changes are much more subtle — at least right now. This isn’t the move from SD to HD, or watching Mario explore a 3D space for the very first time. Instead, it’s a series of smaller — though still important — shifts, like faster speeds and a more immersive controller, which all add up to a markedly better experience compared to the PS4 by every conceivable metric (aside from the space it takes up). I can’t tell you what the future holds, but right now, the PS5 is a great piece of hardware.” (Andrew Webster, The Verge)
“In many ways, the PlayStation 5 feels like a more significant upgrade from the PlayStation 4 than the PlayStation 4 did coming from the PlayStation 3, especially for someone like me who never splurged on a PlayStation 4 Pro.” (Ian Walker, Kotaku)
“If the PS5 wasn’t so massive (you may have trouble finding room for it on your media cabinet), I’d consider it a near-perfect console. It’s quiet, powerful and quick. The system is a glimpse into the future, featuring 8K resolution gaming, 4K resolution at high frame rates, crazy-fast load times, and ray tracing, which was previously only possible on high-end PCs that cost thousands of dollars.” (Elise Favis, The Washington Post)
Three games to play
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
“Yakuza: Like a Dragon will be the latest entry in the Yakuza series, which spans seven mainline entries and numerous spinoffs. Since the release of the first title in 2005, Yakuza has been a mainstay for the Japanese gaming audience, providing an experience akin to a playable crime drama; in recent years, the franchise has also found a new breath among the Western audience. Like a Dragon seeks to appease old fans and capture a new audience with a daring new combat system and a different protagonist who is both earnest and charismatic. […] To my surprise, Yakuza: Like a Dragon has managed to create an entirely different experience from previous Yakuza games, reinvigorating the series in ways I didn’t think were possible.” (Kazuma Hashimoto, Polygon)
“Like a Dragon grapples with the series' own potential obsolescence the way yakuza do with theirs. While it's never been a main focus, each game has been good at charting actual yakuza history - whether it's breaking into real estate management or using legitimate businesses as fronts, yakuza had to adapt several times in the face of legislation fighting organised crime. Like a Dragon's story has arrived in the present, and thus focuses on the present state of the yakuza with unexpected candour - at its core, it's a story about yakuza making headway into politics, rather than infighting between fictional clans.” (Malindy Hetfeld, Eurogamer)
“As the game executes on a melodramatic, multi-faceted conclusion typical of a Yakuza game, you're encouraged to reflect on the hardships and tragedies Ichiban had to endure. It's rare, however, to also see the protagonist of a Yakuza game also do the same. You can see the journey, the struggles, the challenges, the growth, and the friendships worn plainly on his face. Yakuza has a penchant for exaggeration, this game really goes for it, and it works. Ichiban is an expressive character, sometimes to the point of parody, but it's endearing and often inspiring. Ichiban is an idealist and a bit naive, but he's also what his friends have made him through their own personalities and their sense of justice: a hero.” (Michael Higham, GameSpot)
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
“There’s something about a young Black American hero not trusting the police that hits pretty hard this year. Miles not relying on the cops to improve his predominantly BIPOC community is a notable turnaround from the white Peter Parker, who is aligned with the police in the original game. The cops here are also dismissive, rather than thankful, when they encounter Miles; their cheery familiarity with Peter Parker’s Spider-Man has been replaced with snark and distrust for Miles. Of course, the cops don’t know that Miles is a young Black man beneath the suit, but it’s almost fitting. There’s also no police ally character like the first game’s Yuri Watanabe. Overall, the police seem remarkably — and to my mind, thankfully — rather absent from this game.” (Tauriq Moosa, Polygon)
“But Spider-Man: Miles Morales is not brave enough to name the political issues that these lovingly rendered characters face, beyond their surface level identities. Black Lives Matter protests are specifically about police violence. Yet, this game has tied itself into a knot where it cannot say anything negative about the police. Sometimes Miles will web up a bad guy and muse to himself if this is how his dad felt after he was done with cases. Miles Morales doesn't even present an argument that Miles' father was a good cop—it's accepted, de facto, that being a cop is good. All I can think about is Miles' dad frisking his friends to meet a quota.” (Gita Jackson, Vice)
“Miles Morales wants to tell the story of how its main character comes into his own as a superhero by embracing what makes him different, and finding the people he can fight for. It wants to show us how he grows to love and respect his new neighborhood (and how his neighbors do the same for him in turn) by helping them with problems big and small. The best moments of the game are when supervillains and dramatic reveals are sidelined for moments of human decency and an obscenely-lovable cast of bodega owners, barbers, and people looking out for each other.” (Mike Sholars, Kotaku)
“[G]iven the circumstances that Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales releases into, it's heartening to have a tale that's so eager to see the best in everyone, and that strives for diversity in a world divided. In that way, Spider-Man: Miles Morales' message of hope feels like the right sentiment for this very moment. It's escapism with a social conscience, a timely, tremendous thing right now.” (Martin Robinson, Eurogamer)
“I’ve never really felt like I had any serious affinity for the PlayStation brand — having grown up as a Nintendo kid — but seeing all these familiar references and pieces of hardware from the last 25 years actually brought back a lot of fond memories. For PlayStation die-hards, a run through Astro’s Playroom will be true bliss.” (Russ Frushtick, Polygon)
Three stories to read
Maddy Thorson isn’t only one of the kindest and most creative game designers I’ve met in my career. They’re also an astonishingly generous and vulnerable writer. This piece on their journey and how it intersects with Celeste is a must-read. (Maddy Thorson)
“What happens to a famous Twitch streamer's channel after death?” (Nathan Grayson, Kotaku)
Five videos to watch
Digital Foundry tests Xbox Series X backward compatibility and finds great results.
Digital Foundry tests PS5 backward compatibility and ALSO finds great results.
The Gorillaz go machinima in the year 2020.
I know it’s a week after Halloween, but y’all deserve one more joyfully ghastly video.
Jarvis Johnson has become one of my favorite YouTube creators. This video on the Great Pokémon Card Debacle will show you why.
The best of the rest
Oh no, EA made a good reply.
(I have become emotionally weak under all this week’s stress!)
Speaking of Walmart: Is it safe to shop in person for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X? (Austen Goslin and Nicole Carpenter, Polygon)
“Sega sells off its arcade business due to coronavirus.” (Wesley Yin-Poole, Eurogamer)
An interview with Final Fantasy 14 creative director Naoki Yoshida about how the game became a playground for experimentation. (Cian Maher, The Gamer)
A Frog and Toad knitting pattern. (Frankie)
That’s it. That’s the section. What more could you possibly need!
But what do you think?
Send links, tips, comments, questions, games, and favorite Thanksgiving recipes to @plante.
That’s a wrap. See y’all next time. Wear a mask!