Control: Ultimate Edition – Xbox Series X

Control Ultimate Edition Hotline

Control was one of my favorite and memorable experiences on the PlayStation 4. When I found out that there was going to be a polished version on the PS5 and Xbox Series X I quickly purchased another copy on the Xbox Series X. I doubt I’ll get a PS 5 until 2022 so the Xbox is home for now.

Control Plant Complaint

The PlayStation 4 version was clunky yet beautiful. There was lag when pulling up menus and the map. There were moments that the console couldn’t handle all of the particles on the screen so it would stutter. There were occasional issues with rendering as well. There weren’t enough bugs to keep me from finishing as the story drew me in deeper and deeper. Or maybe it was the Hiss.

The Ultimate Edition that released on February 2nd is was what I felt the game was intended to be from launch. A smooth experience that shows off Remedy Games talent and a budget well spent. Every problem I noticed when playing it in the past was no longer a thing. So far my game has only crashed once, and getting back on my feet just felt like a part of the experience of the game.

Control Dr. Underhill Threshold Specialist

Control: Ultimate Edition has finally reached the consoles it was intended to be played on without the need of a gaming PC. It’s incredible and truly utilizes the team’s talent that assembled this project. It can be difficult but as you play you’ll become more in sync with the abilities you gain to bring the Oldest House back under control. If you haven’t played Control yet I highly recommend it.

Xbox Series X

I had planned on investing in a Playstation 5. I’ve been bitter that Microsoft wouldn’t allow users to replace their own hard disks without risking an account ban for modding the Xbox. My PS 4 has been upgraded multiple times with larger SSDs as the cost has gone down over the past decade. If you’ve played Bloodborne you’d be quite familiar with how long load times can take. Maybe it would be more cost effective to build a PC and enhance the gaming experience instead of having to fumble with consoles. As for now the Xbox Series X has earned my attention.

From years of experience with the PS4 and Xbox One, the Series X is a welcome upgrade. Microsoft introduced the updated UI before launch and this update shines on the Series X. The Xbox interface feels similar to Windows 10. You can create custom Groups that you name, then add installed Apps and Games for ease of access on the Home Screen. It would be nice to be able to add custom categories with some AI to automatically add new content to them. I currently have 3 groups named Playing, Games, and Streaming. You can share media directly to your OneDrive for extra Cloud storage.

Everything loads much more quickly, and the image quality is much better even only running at 1080p at 60fps. I’m really impressed with the Quick Resume feature that will suspend games when the system is shut down. Not only does the system power on in a few seconds, but games resume from a suspended state almost as quickly as the system powers on. This feature does not apply to the Power Saving mode, so maybe it’s worth the extra watts.

Seagate has partnered with Xbox to produce a 1 TB Storage Expansion Card for the Xbox Series X. Seagate states that their product extends the capability of the Xbox Series X and Series S seamlessly using Xbox Velocity Architecture with “virtually no lag in power or speed when gaming from the expansion card”. I do plan on expanding my storage as I’ve already consumed about 70% of the SSD’s capacity. I do not need the additional storage but it will save me from possibly having to re-download a title and use my precious data plan.

Speaking of my Data Plan I’ve been playing around with the Xbox app and Remote Play. I’ve been using remote play features on the PS4 for quite a while now. Unfortunately the ISP I use throttles and has extremely low upload speeds so the experience is cloudy at best. I can say the Remote Play service is awesome but there are limitations over a cellular service or a corporate monopolized internet service provider.

Playstation still has my attention with their awesome launch lineup and list of titles in development. Unfortunately Xbox did not have anything noteworthy for their new Series X/S launch. This is probably the biggest disappointment but I hadn’t used my Xbox One in years so the lineup in Game Pass was the saving grace. I am missing out on the Windows 10 games available in Game Pass which is almost enticing enough to throw together some hardware to build a gaming machine. M1thinks these titles should be available on macOS!

My gaming highlight of December in Game Pass was Quantum Break suggested by a friend. This title alone made my holiday break quite enjoyable. The combination of a movie and video game was absolutely brilliant. The best storytelling experience I’ve had in years although I’m still a bit confused by it all. You could even say I’m left in AWE.

December: Gaming on Dusty Old Consoles

Ori and the Blind Forest on Xbox One

Tis the season for some shopping as capitalism ramps up for the Holidays. I’ve failed to secure a Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X and I’m totally OK with this. I’ve plugged in my Xbox One that launched dust particles from its previously dormant state. This haunted old console tends to turn itself on at random with the spooky sound of the boot chime. After a bit of research, I was able to bust the ghost in the Xbox One; there are some issues with the Energy Saving which is not worth using because disabling this feature provides a better experience. Games stay in a suspended state and the console fires up with much more effieciency. It will also download updates while in a sleep state.

Fractured Minds on XBox One

One of my friends turned me onto Xbox Live Ultimate Gold Edition (or whatever the subscription service is called), which is a something like a combination of Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass. I’m starting to feel like I’m signing up for a cable TV service. It was $1 for 3 months and $14.99/mo after the fact. Considering the library of gaming titles includes ALL of the Kingdom Hearts titles*, THEN WHAT… Fortunately, I won’t have to speak to a representative from Xbox or Microsoft to try and drive down the cost of this service, but I really am interested to see what is being offered and how well it works. So far, so good.

As I wait for the software packages to arrive on the slow rotational drive, I’m browsing with great curiosity and a spark of joy coming from the dry bones of the Playstation Plus subscription service which has honestly failed to deliver in comparison. I’ve reviewed my library of PS Plus games and was pretty let down. You get what you pay for, I suppose, and there is the PS Now service that isn’t half bad. I don’t think streaming services are compatiable with internet service providers with data caps and throttling so there’s room for growth there.

My library did have certain games I still had access to and an additional library which brings me to Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and thinking outside the box. This brillaint compilation of puzzles, fighting baddies, and drawing all over my TV with a magic marker had truly brought me back to the Xbox. I had been hooked on my PS4 playing titles like Nioh, The Last of Us II, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Ghost of Tsushima, Doom Eternal, Days Gone, Control, and Death Strainding in which some are now availble to play on Windows. This felt like the console wars! I stood on the fence beside Steam and the lack of Half Life 3 wanting the best gaming experience that could be offered at the most cost effective rate.

Max: The Curse of the Brotherhood on Xbox One

I’m re-visiting Max: The Curse of Brotherhood as I had left it in cold storage in my closet along with the Xbox One. It’s a fun tale where you use some magical marker to create platforms out of earth elements to progress through sidescrolling levels to reach the next area that are farily recognizable through color coding. The colors show you where to activate your special magic marker powers. The magic marker weapon is the most important mechanic in the game. For example, you can grow vines that can be cut off to form a platform to get Max over a slimey spike pit to collect a part of a medallion. What I’m getting at is this game will work your puzzle solving, timing, and achievement hunting gears all at once.

Carrion on Xbox One

So after a few levels I moved on to Carrion, an antagonist adventure as a bio-creature escaped from a lab to figure out why I’m escaping and why do I have such noodly apendages. It immediately reminds me of Super Metroid and I am taken in. By taken in, I mean I now have to adapt to another controller schematic to control this red Carrion thing. I quickly lose interest as I’m not a fan of the screaming and devouring of humans. Maybe I’ll come back to this one.

Carrion on Xbox One

Then I stumbled upon Ori and the Blind Forest to completion. What a beautiful and moving experience. The world is vibrant and colorful. Ori and the Blind Forest has truly satisified my Metroidvania craving by checking all the boxes for collecting new powers, to access areas that aren’t available at first. This ended up being a lot more challenging than I anticipated and a bit frustrating at times but I loved every second. Now I’m moving on to play through the sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps and write a blog post about it. I absolutely LOVE Ori.

Ori and the Blind Forest on Xbox One Tri-Force Easter Egg

There’s a lot to cover here so I’ll end with Super Lucky’s Tale which is lighthearted and not too morbid. It’s similar to games like Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon. Simple and fun. The Xbox is a clear winner with connectivity to other services provided by Microsoft. It’s been a wonderful experience dusting off my console and re-connecting with the cloud. That’s what is so great about Game Pass: there’s a lot of Indie and AAA games to play. I’m 100% sold on Microsoft’s services but I’m left to wonder is Microsoft the Empire? 

Super Lucky’s Tale on Xbox One

UPDATE: Monday I launched the Target app on my phone and managed to purchase an Xbox Series X. I thought there was no way there would be one available Christmas week, but Target had one just for me. I didn’t even have to go into the store to pick it up as Target offers a contactless pickup service scheduled through their Target app or Target.com. In-store pickup and same day delivery are also available. Great options for minimizing contact during the pandemic.

*All titles are not included because there’s 100 Kingdom Hearts games.

Screen captures are my own content captured on Xbox One.

Molding Goals for 2021 Starting Today

One of my greatest life challenges, as it may be for many others, is to find a balance beteen work and personal life. As we spend many days and hours in the grind, one of my goals is to find as happy medium between work and life. I strongly believe in a less busy lifestyle for many people, a stronger focus on self care, furthered education, environmental preservation, conservation, and maintaining a better tomorrow.

I started by making checklists for tasks using Microsoft To Do and the iOS Reminders app for structure and some sense of completion. I have numerous projects at work, and the constant pull of notifications, messages, emails, tickets, and reactive tasks to events during the workday create distraction and make it difficult to make any progress. So I’ve also started to block out focus time and silenced most notifications to increase productivity on the important tasks at hand.

Reminders app in macOS 11

I’m managing to mold my time into something more productive instead of reactive. Enabling myself to become more of a creative instead of the robot of the service industry. Days run together and life becomes a black hole of work, without any vision of progress or accomplishment. Now I’m using tools to reinforce myself in knowing that I am doing enough, and that I am working towards something better.

I’m reaching my 10th year in my career and the pandemic has been an eye opening experience into the world of academia and business. I’ve started to feel more talented and energized to accomplish new things. The problem is the roadblocks of wanting to do too many things at once and quickly becoming burnt out. I’ve started creating mental goals and have started to visualize accomplishments but quickly turn into systematic thought crashes and discouragement.

Creating documents that visualize and plan will help form a strategy and structure to accomplish these goals. This structured approach to career goals and peronal development should lead to intentional time management, a more strategic approach to completing projects, and a focus on accomplishing personal and work goals more efficiently and effectively. I can also look back on what I’ve started, how far I’ve progressed, and add notes on the goal. It’s not something I normally talk about but I was diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age. I’d like to think of this as focus hell as my brain is easily distracted by a new shiny interest, and what was in focus is lost in shadow memory.

My main goals for 2021 are to become more organized, create a plan to find a career that is more fulfilling with true growth in diversity, to polish my current skillset, learn at least 1 programming language, become a better baker, engingeering, and use resources to continue my education through SkillShare, Linkedin Learning, or Coursera.org. A lot of these goals go hand in hand so I can see spending time on Coursera for example would lead to blocking out time for studies, thus involving more planning and strategizing time and not spending a fortune on an educational experience.

Lo and behold December has arrived and I have a plan before the New Year begins. It feels warm to have set forth goals to accomplish and a plan that will hopefully grow and evolve as I’m able to tick those checkboxes on an ever growing list of things I want to build, create, and learn. Hopefully I won’t take on too much at once and remind myself that what I’m doing is enough for now and that there’s time and room for personal growth. Maybe we’ll plant something new next year too.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory – Photo by Sean K.

List of Video Games I Beat in 2020

Death Stranding

2020 has been a long year, and it’s not over. The PS5 is in circulation, and I have a PS5 controller in hand with no PS5 console in sight. Nevertheless, 2020 is the year of social distancing, social justice, and button mashing. Here’s an ongoing list of the games I’ve watched the credits roll on in 2020 so far.

  • Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
  • Resident Evil 3 (Remake)
  • Final Fantasy 7 (Remake)
  • Control (Platinum)
  • Ghost of Tsushima (Platinum)
  • Spider-Man
  • A Plague Tale: Innocence
  • Nioh 2
  • Journey To The Savage Planet
  • Far Cry 5
  • Detroit: Become Human
  • Last of Us Part II
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  • Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
  • The Outer Worlds
  • Tales of Zestiria
  • Death Stranding
  • Fallout 4
  • The Evil Within
  • Cat Quest
  • The Evil Within 2
  • Undertale
  • Days Gone
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Ori and the Will of Wisps