Far Cry 3 vs Far Cry 6

Hey guys, this is Oracle from the Red Eye Report. Far Cry 6 came out recently. I played through it, and I found the game to be incredibly tedious and uneven story wise. Something kept bothering me. Far Cry 6 plays well. Combat is a smooth experience. Ubisoft has built a beautiful and expansive world in Yara, and you have many options to traverse it as well: helicopters, horses, planes, tanks, and all manner of cars, and when you’re driving those cars, you’re blasting the radio and will often sing along to the tunes. That’s a nice touch. The more I reflect on Far Cry 6, the more I realize that it has many of these little polished touches. The sound in general is top-notch. Little audio cues reward you as you move through the combat. The jungles of Yara sing with wildlife. The game has an outstanding lead villain, Anton Castillo, played by Giancarlo Esposito. He’s evil, but he’s complex. As his story unfolds through cutscenes, you dive into the various layers of Castillo’s past and his motivations.

There are some real highs in Far Cry 6. I guess that’s why I felt so unsatisfied when I finished it. It was an okay game, I’d probably give it a 6 or 7 on a 10-point scale, but I knew it could be so much better. Far Cry 3 is considered by many to be the high point in the Far Cry series. When it came out in 2012 it established the winning blueprint for Far Cry games. I played it back in 2012, and I remembered it being a good game. But was my affection for Far Cry 3 based largely on nostalgia? Was the game as good as I remembered it, or is Far Cry 6 following the same blueprint as Far Cry 3, and I’ve lost my appetite for the Far Cry formula? There was only one way to find out. I fired up Far Cry 3 and gave it a go on PC.

The first thing you’ll notice about any AAA game like this are the graphics. Far Cry 6 is a good-looking game. I was able to run it maxed out on a 3070 card with a capped framerate of 60 FPS no problem. I will say that Far Cry 6 had a consistent level of detail issue for me. Things like clothing and dashboards in cars would load a super low-res texture, and when I say low, I mean N64 quality graphics. It was a little jarring when the rest of the world was a beautiful ray-traced visual feast. This low-res texture problem occurred on the weapons when you brought them up to look down the sights, making serial numbers and other details unreadable. I assume this is a bug. Like I said though, it persisted throughout my entire playthrough of Far Cry 6.

So how do the graphics of Far Cry 3 hold up? It turns out…really well. From top to bottom, Far Cry 3 looks great. The foliage on the Rook Islands is fantastic. The water looks watery. The only area where I would say Far Cry 6 beats Far Cry 3 hands down is draw distance detail. Far Cry 3 has an impressive draw distance for 2012, but when you’re looking super far, like jumping out of a plane far, or at the top of a tower looking at a beach miles away, you will see a basic tile pattern of textures. The rest of game looks so good the tiled textures stand out, and I will say, these occurrences are rare. The animations for enemies are relatively basic, but they’re adequate. Far Cry 6 doesn’t improve on any of these enemy animations. In fact, Far Cry 6 might be a step back from Far Cry 3, but that might have more to do with combat and enemy AI.

Let’s get into the combat. One of the things that immediately stood out to me about Far Cry 3 was just how raw and savage the combat can feel versus Far Cry 6. I mean raw in a good way too. I played both Far Cry 6 and Far Cry 3 on PC and Far Cry 6 quickly devolved into a headshot parade. Don’t get me wrong, I like me some headshots, but I didn’t need to work for them in Far Cry 6. If I shot someone in the head, let’s say across the room or a road, the rest of the enemies would not react. In Far Cry 6, when enemies detect your presence, they do this deer in the headlights thing, where they stop in their tracks and stare at you for almost a full second. I could perform headshots on the enemies in Far Cry 6 using a trackball and my feet if I needed to.

The enemies in Far Cry 3 are another matter entirely. First of all, they don’t stop and hang around for you to shoot them. They are running for cover or advancing and advancing quickly. If you nail an enemy in the leg as they’re running for cover, they might stumble, but they’re still moving. Combat encounters in Far Cry 3 are so much more intense and focused than the encounters in Far Cry 6. In Far Cry 6, you can be at a checkpoint that you’ve captured, and enemy vehicles will just keep coming until you have a pile of enemy bodies and a scrapyard of trucks, tanks, and helicopters. It just doesn’t make sense, and honestly, it gets annoying. These battles were rarely challenging.

Far Cry 3’s equivalent to this is a patrol driving up with a few vehicles. If you can’t nail the vehicle with an RPG or get the jump on the enemies before they dismount, enemies will fan out and take cover and advance to your position in the jungle. This makes for very high-tension and exciting combat in Far Cry 3. There’s no wanted meter like Far Cry 6 either. If you take the patrol out, and nobody else is around to reinforce, that engagement is over. Combat doesn’t feel arbitrary.

Outposts are another good example of the combat differences in Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 6. A checkpoint in Far Cry 6 might have 6 enemies, the outposts can have as many as 20. Because of the delayed reaction time of the enemies, you can quickly dispatch most of these enemies. No matter how late in the game you are, a headshot with armor piercing rounds, which you can craft at the beginning of the game, will take down an enemy. You can easily take out any security systems and cameras ahead of time. If the enemies manage to sound the alarm and call in reinforcements, you can take out incoming choppers and trucks with tracking missiles or hit your panic button, the supremo, and launch a flurry of heat seeking rockets that will take out a huge chunk of the enemy force.

You can take out security systems in Far Cry 3 with a well-placed shot, but many times you will not have a vantage point to get all of them in one go. Plus, if guards are near the alarms that you destroy, they will quickly catch on and go on high alert. In the later stages of Far Cry 3, I would recon an outpost and make the decision to go in and disable the alarm by hand, which would disable all the alarms in the camp. This decision was based on reconning the area, seeing where enemies were posted, identifying a straggler that I could lead off with thrown rocks, and expose a path to an alarm. Once I was in the outpost, I had earned skills that made close quarters combat much more dynamic. I could perform a takedown on an enemy and drag their body out of view or pull the enemy’s knife out after I had killed them and throw it to kill another nearby guard. By the end of Far Cry 3, I had accumulated an impressive array of skills, and every action that I was able to pull off to take down the outpost felt earned.

Far Cry 3 outshines Far Cry 6 in every aspect when it comes to skill tree and general progression systems. You begin the game with basic weapons like a Glock and an AK-47. They’re loud and unwieldy. Enemies and animals are moving throughout the world quickly. You start with 2 health bars. By the end of the game, you can get 6 health bars. You can acquire skills for takedowns. You can make yourself more resilient to blasts. You can reload faster. You can get skills that will enable you to collect crafting resources and money faster. Far Cry 3 is dotted with radio towers that you need to scale and activate to reveal the map. Those get progressively more difficult. The enemies start out as unarmored pirates that can be taken down with a few body shots. As you progress, the enemies’ armor goes up, and their weaponry becomes more lethal. Snipers and enemies with rocket launchers can make for a bad day if you get caught in a tight spot.

You need to upgrade your weapons in Far Cry 3 to keep pace. By the time you get to the second half of the game, the AK-47 and the lower caliber sniper rifles simply won’t cut it. You’ll need the .50 cal sniper rifle to perform headshots on the armored machine gun and flamethrower enemies. You’ll want to get weapons that can support attachments like extended clips and reflex sights. Those guns become available as you activate towers, or you can buy them with cash that you’ve collected. Once again, it all feels earned. 

Far Cry 6 lacks this sense of progression. Skills are tied to your gear, and you pretty much have everything you need from the jump. It seems like Ubisoft wanted to make things easy and on demand for the player. If you want a car, just call it in, one will be dropped off for you. Enemies don’t become more difficult as you progress through the game. Special forces get called in when you have a wanted level, and this is the closest the combat of Far Cry 6 gets to Far Cry 3, but you can quickly dispatch them with headshots or your supremo. Even taking over checkpoints and outposts feels arbitrary. There are so many in Far Cry 6. One third of the map probably has just as many outposts as the entire Far Cry 3 map does. It was great to get to the end of Far Cry 3 and have taken over all the enemy outposts. I truly felt like we were closing in on the enemy and taking away their options. That didn’t happen for me in Far Cry 6. After the credits, it was like, welp get back to work, this place is still a shitshow. It was incredibly dissatisfying.

Crafting in Far Cry 3 is brilliant. You need to craft your various carrying holsters and munitions pouches out of animal hides. Your ammo capacity is considerably less in the beginning of the game than what it ends up being by the end. You will need that ammo for later battles. The enemies are vicious and heavily armored. I was making many more “right tool for the job” decisions in Far Cry 3 than I ended up making in Far Cry 6. I’d ask myself, “Do I want to use my sniper rifle here or get the jump on them with my light machinegun or even go for a stealth kill?” The jungles of Far Cry 3 are dangerous as hell early to mid-game too. You’ll often hear a tiger or other deadly animal growling in the underbrush as you are trying to avoid an enemy patrol. You don’t want to start shooting, because then you’ll alert the patrol. If you get lucky, the tiger might attack the patrol and you can move in to mop up the mess. These encounters are truly dynamic, and they don’t feel forced.

So what are the major takeaways here? Number one, Far Cry 3 is a fantastic game that still holds up in 2021 despite it being nine years old at this point. The graphics are surprisingly good. The menus can be a bit clunky in the beginning. Tasks like crafting and buying and selling items lack some of the modern-day polish that Far Cry 6 has. Other than that, Far Cry 3 blows Far Cry 6 out of the water gameplay wise. If you want a sandbox where you can do whatever the hell you want, okay, Far Cry 6 is the better choice. If you want a well-crafted gameplay experience in a first-person shooter, it doesn’t get much better than Far Cry 3.

Here’s my number two. Ubisoft is getting it wrong regarding what players want from a Far Cry game. More is not better. Convenience is not better. I don’t need to always have a vehicle on hand. Not having one immediately, causes me to make decisions on how I will traverse an area, which then opens other encounters, whether that’s with wildlife or patrols. Enemy encounters should feel natural, not just an endless stream of enemies and vehicles beamed down from some angry god. When I take out a patrol or capture an outpost, I want to feel like I’m making a difference in the overall war.

Number three: Fix that freaking combat. Lose the deer in the headlights pause. Thanks for the super-rewarding sound effects for scoring a headshot but let me earn it and everything else in the game. If I don’t bother to earn skills and resources, make it clear to me that they are necessary for me to progress in the game. 

I’m super glad I played Far Cry 3 again. I plan on playing Far Cry 4 here soon. I’ll write up another article and a video for that one. A part of me is still holding onto a sliver of hope for Far Cry 6 and maybe an expansion to rectify the major flaws it currently has. The world that Ubisoft has built and the things inside it create a fantastic sandbox simulation. There are huge gaps in the gameplay though. We’ll see how Far Cry 4 compares to 3. I’ve seen mixed reactions to 4. Until then, check for more of my reviews on theredeyereport.com and download the Red Eye Report podcast for reviews and other random internet, culture, and news commentary. I’ll see you later.

Far Cry 6 Review: None of This Really Matters Edition

Far Cry 6 has a lot going for it. The island nation that you spend the game liberating is huge and gorgeous. All that real estate doesn’t go to waste either. Around every corner, through every mountainous path, on every beach, there is something to look at or do. You might stumble upon an enemy patrol to harass, free some prisoners, find some loot…it’s all there.

The shooting in the game is the best it’s ever been. You have a plethora of weapons to choose from. Each with different stats and upgrades which can be selected once you have enough materials to purchase them. One of the compadres that you meet early on, Juan, an ex-guerilla fighter/CIA/KGB/fucking everything, insists that you must choose the right tool for the job when you go out on your various missions. And this is where cracks begin to show in Far Cry 6.

You have a huge assortment of weapons to choose from, but it largely ends being a choice between soft-target rounds, which do more damage on unarmored enemies and armor-piercing rounds, which you guessed it, kills armored enemies. Of course, none of this really matters, because if you shoot enemies in the head, preferably with armor-piercing rounds to cut through helmets, they will die instantly.

Far Cry 6 should have the tagline “None of This Really Matters Edition.” I’ve never played a game which was built on such good bones that tries to undermine what is has going for it so thoroughly…and makes the player pay so brutally for getting involved.

Am I cranky? Yes. I finished the game not long ago, and I’m pissed. Let’s start with this right tool for the job bullshit. I think it wasn’t until 10 hours into my 30-hour playthrough that I realized that all these weapon choices were meaningless. I ended up changing my primary rifle once and never swapped out my secondary rifle after I acquired it early in the game. My AK-47 had soft-target rounds and upgrades which were good in close quarters like a reflex sight and a larger mag. My M-16 had a 4x optic on in and a halfway decent silencer. Those were the best weapons I had for the entire game…an AK-47 and an M-16. Throw in a rocket launcher, a decent pistol, a Supremo, and I was set for any confrontation.

The Supremo I mentioned is a charged super weapon that allows you to unleash a flurry of rockets or poison or healing or fire, etc, etc, depending on which variation of Supremo you choose. Of course, because this is Far Cry 6, the first variation was the best one, and the other ones were useless novelty items, which I didn’t care to use. They sucked and weren’t worth the effort.

Despite the game providing ample upgrade resources, I stopped giving a fuck about collecting resources about 15 hours in. I didn’t need to upgrade anything. I just wanted to get to the end of the fucking game, and I had so much to do to get there. I felt overworked, and every decision I made from that point on was to get me to the next mission so I could progress the story. All those beautiful waterfalls and fun and wacky occurrences in the jungles of Yara were lost to me. I had shit to do, and I knew ultimately, whatever I did would matter only marginally.

One of the few glimmers of hope that I had for the late game was the use of helicopters. The enemy has a shit-ton of helicopters that you’ll need to shoot down, but you also get an assortment of copters and planes equipped with rockets and machine guns. Fun stuff, right!? Too bad you’ll have to take out the 30+ anti-aircraft sites dotted around Yara before you can have fun in the skies. Oh, and by the time you manage that, the game will largely be over. WHAT THE FUCK!?!

There’s this huge, beautiful world filled to the gills with bad guys, and I felt like I had a leash on the entire time. Sure, I could fuck things up massively with my armaments, but those engagements looked the same no matter how much carnage I was inflicting. Head shots with my anti-armor rounds, shoot the enemy helicopters and trucks with my rocket launcher, maybe throw a Molotov.

The game became a never-ending headshot carnival game. I would walk into ABSOLUTELY ANYWHERE without doing recon, maybe sneak along a flank, and pick off enemies one-by-one with headshots. If an alarm was raised or it was one of the missions where they sent endless enemies swarming, I would escalate, use my Supremo, and begin shooting trucks and helicopters with my rocket launcher. Now multiply that engagement by about 2,000, and you’ll begin to get an idea of what the Far Cry 6 experience is.  

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention you have a choice of companion for the game, a man-eating croc or a paraplegic dog with wheels for back legs. Why did I forget to mention them? You guessed it…because they don’t fucking matter. They were fun for the first 5 hours, and at some point, I accidentally turned them off, and just never bothered to have them accompany me again.

There’s a cock fighting mini game. It’s fully formed just like all this other bullshit, but there was no way I was going to search the world for roosters to fight for me. I had an endless bucket of meaningless checkpoints to take over. There’s a turn-based, choose your path, mission dispatch system. You could get rewarded resources for the missions. Oh yeah, I don’t give a fuck about your resources because I don’t need them. There’s this cool mode where you have to extract a temperature sensitive core out of a large bespoke mission area, like a dinosaur themed waterpark, and then bring that core to a drop-off, all the while keeping it cool with water in the environment, and the shade. What do you get for completing these long-ass missions? For me, it was resources to upgrade one silencer…slightly. I ended up doing one of these missions out of several, because at the end of the day, they didn’t matter.

The writing and acting is generally good in this game. There are several great characters and performances in Far Cry 6. The dictator that you’re trying to kill, Anton Castillo played by Giancarlo Esposito, is fantastic to watch. He’s layered, and his relationship with his son and everyone around him is fucked. And you meet some interesting fellow revolutionaries along the way, too. One of the old legends, El Tigre, the most macho guerilla fighter you’ll ever see was one of my favorites and watching how the legends clashed with the younger generation of guerilla fighters was genuinely interesting. It was even better when they came together and launched some truly awesome attacks that you get to be a part of. This is when Far Cry 6 is at its best. It’s much worse when you’re forced to rub shoulders with less likeable characters with less depth, and this seems to happen with increasing regularity as the game goes on.

Should you play this game? First off, don’t buy it at full price. For the love of God, don’t pay $120 for the complete edition. Ubisoft+ for $15 a month, will let you play Far Cry 6 or any other Ubisoft game. I would go with that option. I was impressed with Far Cry 6 for the first 5 – 10 hours. They have built an impressive world that looks good and for the most part, is filled with people and stuff. The honeymoon period began to wane rapidly though around hour 10, after I realized that really, the collectibles weren’t worth spending the time getting, and the engagements were all: headshot…headshot…headshot…truck is coming…rocket launcher. I spent a huge amount of time clearing out anti-aircraft sites, only to cash in on that time investment on a few missions, and even when I would attack the enemy with helicopters, there always seemed to be a few more bad guys that I needed to shoot in the head after landing, making me wonder if I should have just driven up and shot everybody in the head in the first place.

I’d say give the game a try. You’ll probably like the early hours of Far Cry 6, but if you begin feeling like you’re not enjoying the game as much, well, it’s not going to get any better. You’ve seen the best that Far Cry 6 has to offer. Shelve it, and maybe there will be a more dynamic expansion in the future.

Real VR Fishing Review – Killer Catch

Real VR Fishing

VR is in a unique position in gaming. It’s truly novel for many users. Long gone are the days of marveling at mouselook in a first person shooter or crying in jubilation at the sound of your dial up modem connecting to a friend and the possibilities of online multiplayer. VR tech, even though it has been around for 20+ years, has yet to be experienced by most people outside enthusiasts. “Good VR,” or VR that was produced for a larger consumer market has only been around since 2016 with the official release of the HTC Vive. To enjoy that experience, you needed a powerful gaming PC. Wireless, PC-free VR gaming (Good VR with proper controllers) didn’t arrive until late 2018 with the original Oculus Quest. The release of the Oculus Quest 2 in 2020 meant much higher fidelity games for PC-free VR, more developers creating games for PC-free VR, and thus more opportunities to blow somebody’s mind when you let them try VR for the first time.

There is a certain ilk of VR apps that you want to show off to your relatives or friends that have never tried VR before. It needs to be a recognizable experience that they can dive into right away. Chances are you’re showing it off to a non-gamer or someone that plays Candy Crush more than Call of Duty. VR games that are on the top of that list are things like Beat Saber: Just hit the fucking blocks, Grandma! Superhot is effective as well: Just shoot them in the face, Grandma! The king of VR games at the moment in terms of technical chops and what not, Half Life: Alyx (which needs to be running on a gaming PC but can be streamed over wifi to the Quest 2), is too much for a non-gamer. Us nerds take reloading mechanics and checkpoints for granted. We’ve been suckling on those gaming tits for decades now. Newbies just need to hit a fucking block or point a shooty-shoot in a direction and pull the trigger.

Good news, I have a new VR app suggestion that will absolutely blow your uncle’s alcoholic brain: Real VR Fishing for the Oculus Quest and Rift. I’m playing it on the Quest 2.

Fishing works really well in VR to begin with. Real VR Fishing has taken many of the best aspects of VR fishing games and refined them to produce something that feels polished and is a lot of fun. The first thing that will make your cousin cream her pants are the graphics.

Photorealism is not something that you find in today’s VR games. VR is taxing on current hardware. To make VR work, your machine needs to render two separate cameras simultaneously, one for each eye, at a high frame rate like 90 fps. If the frame rate drops below 90 fps, the user will become VR sick. Having players puke their guts out is a bad business model for VR developers. That’s why many VR games use simpler graphics models and graphic filter techniques like cell shading. More basic graphics are fine for most VR games. If the core gameplay mechanics are solid, the physicality of VR games with directional audio combine to make an engaging experience.

Real VR Fishing stands outs immediately in the graphics department. The team at MIRAGESOFT has masterfully pulled off a blend of 2D photos and 3D geometry. I seriously think this might be the best and most convincing example of the combination of 2D photos and 3D geometry I’ve ever seen in a video game. In the distance, you will see bridges, hills, docks, and parked cars. Those are all comprised of a curved, 2D images. The water, rod, and fish are 3D geometry, and they have been crafted with exquisite detail.

It’s that level of detail that pushes Real VR Fishing off the charts in the graphics department. For instance, in one level where I was fishing at dusk, a swarm of bats emerged over the wide river that I was fishing on. While I watched the tip of my pole flex as fish nibbled at my lure, I was watching the giant swarm of bats gyrate and morph over the water in the distance. If you look off to the right or left on a shoreline, you might be rewarded by the sight of a swarm of insects flying over a pile of vegetation. Flocks of birds will frequently fly overhead. At night, fireworks will burst over the city skyline and shooting stars will streak in and out of view. There’s even a double rainbow. All of these fine graphical details stack up to create an ultra-immersive experience.

Real Fishing VR features twenty different fishing spots throughout South Korea. When you catch a fish, you can choose to either release the fish for XP or keep the fish for cash. Gaining XP helps you progress in levels and unlocks new fishing locations along with the ability to buy new gear like reels, rods, lures, boats, and cosmetics for your avatar. The cash allows you to actually purchase the items. I’ve found the progression to be fair and not too easy or difficult. You need to catch a decent amount of fish to make gains, but guess what, we’re in VR-land, so if you’re using the correct bait and cast out, you’re going to get a bite in 10 seconds or so. Eat shit real life!

Let’s talk about gameplay. Fortunately, Real VR Fishing is much more than eye candy. The gameplay mechanics are good. The developers have gamified fishing in some clever ways. In other VR fishing games, it’s pretty much just about the tension of the line—which is true here too, but how you manage that tension is a bit different. On a basic level, don’t reel the line when the tension is too tight (red line) or reel it in when the line is too loose (blue line). Following those guidelines pretty much guarantees catching smaller fish. For bigger fish, how you manage line tension becomes much more critical. If a fish runs to the left, you need to pull your rod to the right. If the fish jumps out of the water to the right, you need to snap your rod to the left to potentially stun the fish and give you valuable uncontested reeling time. If the fish is in a “rage state” and splashing around, you need to slow your reeling down and anticipate if the line will be too tight or slack when it finishes throwing its tantrum. When you’re going after bigger fish, there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually pull it in. You need to work for that shit, and it means that this isn’t some sort of weird South Korean fishing slot machine. You can chill and go for medium and small fish (which on hard difficulty you see a fish detector before you cast out), or if you want a good challenge that demands your attention, you can go for the big boys.

As far as difficulty goes, I recommend completing the tutorial, trying the easy mode a few times, and then bumping it up to hard. Easy mode displays a UI that shows you exactly where you are in terms of tension and which direction you need to pull your rod. Hard mode loses the UI, and it forces you to actually watch what the fish are doing as you reel them in. I’m not sure what expert mode does, because I’ve been too much of a pussy to try it. I imagine it loses the fish detector and possibly the line color tension indicator. As you go up in difficulty levels, the game becomes less forgiving in terms of losing the fish. Hard mode has been a satisfying challenge for me thus far.

The force feedback in this game is outstanding. Fishing games inherently work well with VR force feedback. Real VR Fishing nails it. Whether you’re reeling in the big fish or you’re casting your line and the lure breaks the surface of the water—the force feedback feels great in the Oculus Quest 2 controllers. I haven’t tested this game on the other Oculus systems, but I would expect the results to be very similar.

Real VR Fishing has a few other unique features. As you catch fish, you can add them to your aquarium in your lodge. This is a nice touch. The fish look fantastic swimming around, and as you progress in levels, you have the option to add cosmetics to the aquarium. You can purchase several cosmetics for your avatar. This is cool because the game has a built-in photo mode which includes a selfie camera along with multiplayer support to play with your friends.

Verdict:

Real VR Fishing is an essential title for your Oculus collection. The game is only $20 on the Oculus store. You’ll have a blast playing the game, and between this and Beat Saber, you can show off some of the coolest features of VR to newbies in under 10 minutes. Real VR fishing has top-tier graphics for not only a VR title, but fishing games in general. The mechanics of this game are solid, challenging, and fair. The tutorial is a bit lean, but if you follow the recommendations I gave in the review, you should be fine. Fine tuning your angling skills is a big part of the fun. This is not an aquatic slot machine! Along with multiplayer support, the game allows you to play your own music or even videos on the Quest while you fish. The attention of detail that MIRAGESOFT has implemented in this game builds up to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience, whether you’re a master angler at heart or someone just looking to try a quality experience in VR.

Elgato HD60 S+ Capture Card Review: Good But Still Pain In The Ass

Streaming video games is another dumb and fruitless hobby that I have. It’s consistently a pain in the ass if you want to do anything like add overlays and a camera with a green screen. You need a capable PC to do this. Your stream will look like pixel vomit if you don’t have a high enough bitrate or fast enough internet connection. Oh wait, how do you add party chat? Oh, you want HDR while you’re playing? Don’t even get me started on HDCP or High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection or copyright claims on music that is being played in game. Jesus wept.

Anyway, my last external capture card was the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus. All in all, I was happy with how the card performed, although there were a few notable limitations. Probably the most important for me was the lack of 4K HDR passthrough while plugged into the card. If I was streaming, my games didn’t have HDR. That would not do for ole boyo with 4K-oyo. So I upgraded.

I’ve heard good things about Elgato minus the usual bitching about streaming in general. Their cards are considered to be at the top of the food chain in terms of consumer-grade streaming tech. Now that I have an Xbox Series X, which you can read my review of here, I wanted to pass HDR through to my TV while streaming. The external card that would allow me to do that was the Elgato HD60 S+ for $199.

Here are my impressions after having this card for a week. It looks really good. This card has no problem handling 1080 streams at 60 fps and the graphics look fantastic. I use OBS as my streaming platform and it had zero problems recognizing the card. HDCP is still a pain in the dick. If I want to watch Disney+ or Netflix on my Xbox, I need to unplug my HDMI cable from the Elgato and plug the Xbox directly into the television. This means I have to get my fat ass up and dig behind the TV more often than I’d like. I’m lazy and slightly retarded; so to simplify and foolproof this process, I’ve color coded the cables to reduce the chances that I will fuck it up. Why there isn’t some sort of switch to handle this is beyond me.

Elgato has 4K game capturing software. I used it a bit, and it seems perfectly capable for what it’s intended purpose is. I was surprised that this software does not appear to have built-in streaming capabilities. You will need to use OBS, SLOBS, or some other streaming platform on your PC.

Let’s talk about audio with this thing. The audio quality sounds perfect. Here’s the deal though: depending on what type of USB port you are using and the speed of your PC, you might have considerable lag between the capture card video and audio. I’m talking seconds worth of lag. Now this varies depending on your hardware setup. For instance, on one of my laptops, which for some fucking reason the USB 3.0 works fine sometimes and other times it doesn’t (fucking Obama), my lag time between audio and video is 680 milliseconds. The recommended number by Elgato is 650 milliseconds. You’ll need to fine tune the number. 650 is a good place to start. On another laptop that I tested that has actual USB 3.0 ports and not crap Denny’s ports like the aforementioned one, there was zero delay.

I’ve found the best way to test the delay is to bring up a game with a predictable sound that you are familiar with. I brought up Rocket League and recorded a clip of me jumping 3 times. I could then get the audio delay set correctly based on that. Repeat as necessary. The audio delay has brought up interesting challenges in terms of party chat.

I bought a party chat cable from Elgato to include chat. It’s dog shit. The connector is loose in my Xbox controller adapter and makes a bunch of buzzing sounds. The cable is too short. I would have to be right up on my equipment to reach everything. When I plugged the cable directly into the Elgato HD60 S+ “audio in,” it didn’t fucking work. Boo. The AVerMedia card handled party chat much better. You plugged it in and it worked. There were also no concerns about delay. I managed to find a decent solution for the Xbox Series X. I imagine this will work on other Xboxes. No it won’t work on your Xbox 360…smartass.

In your audio output options, you can change your party chat output to headset and speakers. This will run the other people in your chat through the HDMI, thus allowing it to be captured with the gameplay. You will need another microphone to capture your own voice. I use a wireless microphone setup. Mine is a Phenyx Pro wireless system. This thing is tits honestly. Just remember to turn your wireless pack off when you go to the bathroom to take a shit. I use a digital interface to pipe the wireless audio into my laptop via USB. One more thing, you need to delay your voice and webcam to match the HDMI party audio that is coming in…had zero delay.

Hey, I wasn’t kidding when I said this was a pain in the ass.

I’m guessing the dog shit audio cable I bought from Elgato would work if I plugged it directly into my PC. That would cut down on the delay offset issues for party chat. Other notable things that I’ve noticed about the Elgato HD60 S+: CPU usage has been wonderful while using this card. It’s at around 3% in OBS when I’m streaming 1080p 60fps. This is much better than the AVerMedia card that I had. Heat doesn’t seem to be an issue. Passthrough feels instantaneous to the TV and even to my computer. Because of this, I’m completely confused as to why the audio is so delayed on some ports. As far as aesthetics go, the HD60 S+ looks like a small external hard drive.

Am I happy with my purchase? Yes. Is streaming video games with overlays and other features still a minor clusterfuck. Yes. If you want to stream games with camera and overlays and all of that horseshit, you have a next-gen console, are using 4K HDR, and have a capable gaming PC to handle the streaming—this is an excellent external card. There is a good chance you will need to fiddle with the audio. WHY THE FUCK IS THE AUDIO SO WEIRD ON THIS THING!?! But, if you are comfortable setting audio sync offsets in OBS or SLOBS, it should not be an issue. There are plenty of videos on YouTube.

Xbox Series X Review

I’ve had the Xbox Series X for a little under 2 weeks, and I’m ready to give my honest to goodness review of Microsoft’s new console. First of all, it was a complete pain in the ass to get this console in 2020. I tried to purchase one on 4 different occasions by spamming the “buy” button every 2 seconds when I caught wind of a restock. Even with me hitting the button seconds after Walmart restocked, I still needed to spam the button for about 30 minutes before I was able to actually purchase the system. Fucking bots. Anyway, if you decide to buy one of these, you should have an easier time as 2021 moves along, but then again, you might not be in a rush after reading this review.

Form Factor:

I’m actually impressed by how compact this system is. The power supply is inside the case. When I pulled it out of the box I remember thinking, “Damn, this thing has some weight to it!” Microsoft is making a statement here: no frills with a big ole don’t fuck with me vent on the top. I haven’t noticed any extraneous venting sounds or anything coming from the Series X. You can put the system on its side, but I wouldn’t. It’s clearly been made to stand upright.

Setup:

Setup was incredibly easy with this system. I upgraded from an Xbox One X, so I already had the Xbox app installed on my phone. When you power the Series X on for the first time, it gives you a code to put in the app. I was up and running in under 5 minutes. I selected the games I wanted to install from my library and Game Pass and let it download and install. I have 400 MB internet in my apartment, and my Xboxes have consistently been the fastest machines in the house in terms of downloading games. Microsoft has been developing a massive server infrastructure for years and it clearly shows when you’re downloading games. The Series X detected my television’s capabilities and automatically set the best settings in terms of HDR. You can fine tune this with additional settings if you wish. I don’t have a PS5 yet, but I had a hell of a time getting my PS4 Pro HDR to play nicely with my setup.

Performance:

It’s fast. Performance-wise, the SSD of the Series X is the thing that stands out most when compared to the One X. Sorry, I don’t have a fancy chart to show the loading time difference with something like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, but I would say it takes less than a quarter of the time to load the game on the Series X. You can choose between “Performance” or “Graphics” on Assassin’s Creed. On the graphics setting, the experience was largely the same as my One X, minus much shorter loading times. Once I tried the performance setting, I knew my $500 Series X purchase was warranted. This mode locks the game at 60 frames per second, and holy shit, it is buttery smooth compared to 30 fps.

If you’re a PC gamer, you are no doubt lubing yourself with tears of laughter and masturbating at 60+ fps. Yes, if you’ve got the money to buy a killer graphics card like an Nvidia RTX 3070 (which costs more than a Series X on its own), and all of the other components required, you’re going to have a performance and customization advantage. That being said, the Series X cuts out an enormous amount of bullshit. You can power it up and be in a AAA game running at 4K 60 fps in under a minute. Not only that, but you can use Quick Resume on the Series X and jump between up to 6 or so games seamlessly. This feature has made me much more willing to pop out of one game after hitting a story beat, try another game, and resume once the first game once I feel charged up. It might sound like I have ADHD problems, but I’ve been surprised how much more I switch between games now that I can do it in a hassle-free way.

Game Pass:

In my opinion, this system is not worth purchasing without Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft doesn’t have the exclusives lineup like Sony does with the Playstation. Each company likes to tout how powerful their system is, but really, they’re both fast as shit. The value for Microsoft and the Xbox comes with Game Pass. Because of Game Pass, I’ve been able to completely fuck up my fiancés life and turn her into a gamer. She plays the system almost as much as I do and is crushing indie platformers like Hollow Knight, Ori, and Celeste. Game Pass doesn’t just have a library of indies either. They recently added the spectacular game Control and the entire EA Access library. You can tell the people curating the Game Pass library know video games and what the fuck they are doing.

My recommendation is to look for Game Pass cards on sale. This past Cyber Monday I was able to score Xbox Game Pass Ultimate cards from Target for $20 for 3 months (normally $15 per month). When I redeemed those cards, it gave me an extra month per card because I was signed up for autopay, so I got 1 year for $60 versus $180. That wasn’t the first time I cashed in on a good Game Pass deal either. Microsoft is pushing hard to get people signed up. They are currently running a deal where you can get your first 3 months for $1. Take them up on that one and look out for other deals. They want your business.

Interface:

I should start this by saying my PS4 interface made me want to drown a bag of kittens or beat a baby every time I had to use it. I shouldn’t have to look up how to install DLC on Reddit. The Xbox Series X interface is almost exactly as it was with the One X. It’s snappier on the Series X. One notable difference is that when I open an app like Disney+ or Netflix on the Series X, it switches my TV (Hisense H8G) to Dolby Atmos if applicable. My One X would keep the system on the “Game HDR” setting which doesn’t look as crisp as Atmos.

My television has Google features and apps built into it, and using something like Netflix or Twitch on it feels like using a Model T compared to the Series X. The promise of the “always on” box of the Xbox One that made everyone hate it, has come to fruition with the Series X. It absolutely kills as an all-in-one multimedia box. It even has a blue ray drive for you physical media nerds out there.

Controller:

The Series X controller is very similar to the Xbox One controller. It feels a bit more solid. There’s a nice gritty texture on the back, which actually feels really good for some dumb fucking reason. The D-pad feels way better than the Xbox One controller. There’s a share button. Yep, that’s it for differences! Just like so many other aspects of the Series X, the controller feels like an iteration of what Microsoft has done before.

Conclusion:

Should you buy a Series X? If you have an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro…wait unless you need the new thingy. There’s nothing huge here to warrant killing yourself trying to find a Series X. If you have a vanilla Xbox One or PS4…this thing is going to rock your world. The upgrade will feel huge to you. That being said, you will want to get a 4K television to take full advantage of it. If you don’t want to shell out several hundred dollars for a new TV, consider picking up the less expensive Xbox Series S.

Stop fucking around and buy Game Pass if you’re going to pick up one of these systems. The Game Pass library is already phenomenal, but this Xbox hardware lineup will not demonstrate it’s true power and value until Microsoft’s big exclusives like Halo Infinite begin landing in the fall of 2021.

The Xbox Series X is a solid, all-in-one entertainment system. Pair it with Game Pass and your favorite streaming apps, and you’ll have one hell of an entertainment setup.