Game Subtitles! Come Out To Plaaaaaaay!

You get home, brand new game in your bag. It was pre-ordered ages ago and you’ve been waiting all week for it. You excitedly put the disc in, wait for the now mandatory 1 hour update and install before playing. The game starts up, you enter your first cutscene and…….why is the person talking so quietly? Why aren’t the subtitles on!

You can’t hit the start button out of fear that you’ll skip the opening cutscene so you listen intently to what’s being said. This is usually important information. Now, some games start with an action packed sequence with lots of noise and exposition. And unless you have a good soundbar or are playing with headphones on, a lot of details can me mixed in the audio of a thin TV speaker. It can be difficult to parse the relevant information.

So how come, subtitles aren’t on by default? Most people I know always want the subtitles on. I would imagine that over 90% of gamers feel the same way. I completely understand that it can break your immersion seeing text on the screen but nothing breaks my immersion like leaning my ear to the TV to hear what Captain Exposition is trying to tell me. To me, I think subtitles should be on by default with the option to turn them off in the options. Subs on seems to be preferred.

Or do what some games do and subtitles as an option when starting a new game file. I always appreciate this option as 9 times out of 10 I forget to go into the options before I begin my first playthrough of a game. I thoroughly appreciated that this was available on the new Spider Man game. It is the correct way to do it in my belief. Best of both worlds for everyone.

Spider Man Subs

Another reason for subtitles to be on by default and this is more peace of mind is for streaming purposes. This is more for LP’s but how many times have you watched a Twitch stream or Let’s Play and the player(s) are talking over the dialogue? Or they’ve started the game and then realised that subtitles aren’t on during the cutscene and have to go into the options once gameplay starts? Again, I know this is minor stuff but streaming is more common now and it just benefits the viewer to have subtitles on by default.

But let’s imagine we’re playing a new game. Let’s imagine Red Dead Redemption 2 as that’s out soon. We’ve started the game up and after a lengthy opening scene we’re chucked into the gameplay. That was a long scene and cowboys sometimes have gruff voices so it wasn’t an easy listen but we got most of the dialogue. But we don’t want to miss anything so the first thing we tend to do is go into the options while the lack of subs is on our minds. Now we get to play, find the subtitles!

Is it under the Video category? That would make sense as it’s something we see. It’s not there? Well, it must be Audio then, as it’s spoken words put into text form. *Gasp* It’s not there either. Game? It’s in the Game options…..I guess that makes sense since it is a part of the game but so is audio and visual and they got their own sub-sections. Why the Game options?

There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to where the subtitles are placed! I’m very good at moaning as I’m sure you’ve noticed about me writing this article about such a small thing but if it’s something that is easily fixable, then shouldn’t it be fixed? Can we not just all decide together which section in the options, subtitles belongs to? Then have it implemented in all future games.

Anyway I’m going to stop my whinge there. I could talk all day about subtitles and if you want more on that try my previous post, A Game Sin That Needs To Die: Small Text. Let me know how you feel on this matter in the comments and if you prefer your subtitles to be on or off and why. Thanks for reading.

 

Spider-Man PS4 Review

Amazing? Spectacular? Even Superior? The answer is none of the above. Before you close this article, I did really enjoy this game. There are just a few things that hold it back that are substantial.  Firstly, this is a fun game. Since playing Spider-Man 2 over a decade ago, I’ve craved another game that provides the arachnid hero’s feel of mobility. Insomniac has done a tremendous job here of make traversal as Spider-Man, the highlight of the game. Swinging around New York is an absolute blast. Even when I had a way marker on the screen, rather than going the direct and quickest route, I would be frolicking all the way there. They nailed what it’s like to be Spider-Man.

But before I get ahead of myself, I should set the scene and talk about the story itself. So in Spider-Man on the PS4, you play as Wolverine. No wait that’s the wrong hero isn’t it? Obviously you play as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and Spider-Man doesn’t need to be explained, we all know his powers and who he is. Also, I’m getting sick of typing Spider-Man and when the main character is the titular title it becomes extra annoying so from now on, when I refer to Spider-Man himself it’s SM! SM is the main character, with a few occasions the player takes control of Peter’s ex Mary Jane and newcomer in Peter’s life, Miles. Without giving away too many story beats, I was really surprised by the narrative. It’s not a video game classic but the story is well told and full of nuance. There is a good story here and quite a mature one at that. It’s a classic, good vs evil story but there’s a lot of different threads which weave nicely into a cohesive, well told tale.

Not only does the cutscenes and dialogue fill us in on SM’s life but the oodles of side content help to characterise our hero. It weaves a world that feels lived in by SM/Peter Parker. This isn’t an origin story, in fact SM has been Spider-Man-ing for over half a decade. And through side content and collectables, a life of a web slinger is fleshed out. here is a plethora of backpacks, photo opportunities, combat scenarios and my favourite…….pigeon chases. Seriously a group of side missions have you yanking a pigeon out of the sky. Me thinks using a pigeon’s body weight as an anchor or pulling the pigeon to yourself at high speed would pulverise the winged critter but apparently they’re built to last in New York. Also, just to annoy you, try to get the Hanna Barbera song Stop the Pigeon out of your head next time you go for one of those bad boys in Spider-Man.

You’re welcome.

New York itself is a character and Insomniac has done a great job of creating a large playground. I would have liked there to be more unique buildings for fun traversal but what they’ve created is a very good emulation of the big apple. Which, brings me to the web swinging. I like the fighting of this game, I love the swinging. The way SM moves and flows through the air is something else. I don’t get bored with how it feels. Leaping of a web swing right at it’s highest point or dive bombing from a skyscraper just looks and feels the business. There’s fast travel in this game and I don’t think I’ll ever use it. The swinging is the best part of the game and it amplifies my enjoyment of the rest of the game. There is a ton of side content in this game and actually getting to that content is so much fun. A bit more variety in the side missions would be appreciated but the swinging saves the tedium. In other games I could barely care about finding a backpack or repetitive side missions where I swing through smoggy areas for samples. But most of the side missions involve more opportunities to sling webs and I want to indulge in that. Going to a funeral isn’t fun but if you got to drive a monster truck there then that’s a different thing. The combat is fantastic. It took me a while to get used to it as well as I did with Batman Arkham Asylum but once you get used to the controls it flows really well. It’s very similar to the Batman games but with Spider-Man charm. It’s a delight to watch SM’s acrobatic moves when dispatching thugs and the array or gadgets and suits keep the combat from getting stale. As a quick mention, the different suits in the games are a great addition and look amazing. The fact that most of them come with a unique power as well, it’s these little additions that show that Insomniac know how to make a character fun to play.

Spider-Man-Noir-Suit
Currently my favourite suit.

Which, brings me to which characters aren’t fun to play. And one of the main things that holds this game back for me. The Mary Jane and Miles missions. Not all of them. There’s 1 Miles mission I liked and I think 1 Mary Jane mission but that was because it involved SM and had a nice gimmick to it. But the other times, you have to play as these characters skulking around, looking for information or just trying to evade capture from enemies.  They are just not that fun and I don’t oppose to playing as side characters in games. It gives instances to show unique gameplay or story. But the scenarios they’re in and the tools at our disposal need to be interesting or fun. Most of the MJ or Miles parts can be summed up as *wait for guard to look in opposite direction before moving* or *make a noise to draw attention to a spot and then move towards objective*.  It’s a flow breaker after playing as a fast, capable character. You feel stilted and robbed of more SM time. I wouldn’t mind as much if it was one or two in a 15+ story but it seemed to be every 2-3 hours a slow mission reared its head. To the point where when dialogue started leading to a ‘I wonder what predicament Mary Jane has got herself into this time’, I would start mentally asking the game to just show me a cutscene of what happened to her. Please game, take the control from me and show a brief scene that gives me the exposition!  I was never bored when playing as Peter Parker because they were brief and interesting. Hell I would play as one of the pigeons! That’d be a great introduction to that side mission. Getting chased through Central Park by a man in red and blue spandex.

The game also doesn’t have enough ‘WOW that’s what it’s like to be a hero’ missions early on. The last 4 hours or so of the game are so so good. They have SM, a super hero, doing super hero level things. Saving citizens and stopping robberies is hero stuff but I feel like the grand scale missions were all mostly on the back end. It made for a great few hours but now I’m thinking on my new game plus that those first few hours are going to seem like a bit mundane in comparison. Like I said, the swinging and combat are both excellent so I’m sure it won’t be an issue but a few great missions with bigger scope peppered throughout the early hours would have been appreciated. Instead of the aforementioned Mary Jane and Miles missions. When all is said and done though, Spider-Man is a well crafted, fun game. It has a great story, looks beautiful, the music score is on point and overall it is a fun game. I would very much recommend this one and I just hope that Insomniac rethinks some of their mission choices for the sequel. A fantastic game let down by a few missteps but a fantastic game nevertheless.