Over the course of several months, I attempted to get OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast working on my shit-tier PS2 emulator, and to no avail. In the process, I became obsessed with learning the nuances of PS2 emulation, and in doing so discovered two things: the PS2 is not that easy to replicate even on mid-tier machines, and PS2 games are some truly poorly optimized shit. I was putting myself through this bullshit because I suddenly became enamored with OutRun for the first time, learning all about the gameplay loop and the various spin-offs from the Sega arcade classic. Naturally, this lead me to the most recent (and last) major release in the franchise: Coast 2 Coast, which had been released on the PS2, the Xbox, and PSP. I assumed it would be easy to just snatch the ISO and play this on my PS2 emulator. Unfortunately, it was one of the buggier games to emulate, and suffered from such fucked-up slowdown and framerate sputtering that no amount of configuration really held it together.
I know what you're asking: why are you putting so much effort into trying to play this extremely niche and largely forgotten arcade racer. Well, I don't have a solid answer, but OutRun kind of clicked for me in a really weird way. OutRun is the perfect combo of retrowave music, chilled out gameplay that still demands a degree of skillful driving, and is short enough to play in bursts without worrying that I'm gonna be stuck without a savepoint for an hour. As of late, I've been entranced by games that are more on the "arcade" spectrum due to fatigue from 100-hour open world excursions. Games like Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, F-Zero, and Donkey Kong Country are more my jam nowadays for the replay value and tightly-designed playthroughs encapsulated within; I love being able to pick up and play them for a while, end the session, and come back whenever without losing out on anything.
I wasn't a Sega kid; I grew up with the SNES, and even then I didn't get into any racing games until Diddy Kong Racing for the N64. F-Zero X and GX are probably my go-to hardcore racers, but beyond that, I never really latched on to any others in the genre. I only started an interest in OutRun after the Sega Ages arcade-perfect edition of the game was dropped on the Switch, and I fell in love with it instantly. There was just something about the simplicity of it--the complexity only really stemming from controlling your speed, making tight corners over rolling hills, and avoiding other cars--that was endearing. Little things like the course choice and "collecting" them all through multiple runs was fun, too. The soundtrack for the original was maybe 3 or 4 tracks you selected prior to racing but they were all bangers. Everything just came together so nicely that I simply had to seek out what else that series offered.
OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast is a relic--literally. The Ferrari license with Sega ran out, so this game can't even be sold on Steam anymore. I'm told it used to be on Steam, and I wish I knew that years ago, as it would have made things easier for me. What's so special about C2C, anyway? It's technically the home console port of the aptly named OutRun 2, which was launched in arcades in 2003. The first "true" revival of the series, it kept the spirit of the original game alive with its great soundtrack, branching courses, sharp turns, and challenging traffic, while also adding more of a "competitive" aspect to the game with drifting. It's kind of crucial that you know how to drift well, along with slipstreaming to gain speed, in OutRun 2; this is the New Thing they added to keep it fresh and in my humble opinion, it's a really great way to add a new dimension to an already great experience.
The new updated Coast 2 Coast version of OutRun 2 introduced mission modes, primarily for racing but also for the series standby of "pleasing your girlfriend" who rides next to you and gives you tasks to do like "destroy other cars" or "pass convoys" or "dribble a giant fuckin beach ball." Yes, your girlfriend in this game is insane. The other mission mode is "Flagman," which sees you doing more "racer" shit against other cars and aiming to perfect your pure skills in dozens of challenges. You also had classic OutRun modes like the trademark ride through numerous locales against the clock or skillful time trials against track ghosts. There's just so much shit to do and it's taking me forever to improve my rankings to unlock dozens of other challenges and stages to clear--this game is the longest, most fully featured entry in the franchise by a mile. What's even better is that you're always earning Miles, which can be exchanged for new cars, music, track formations, and other treats. The replayability is just kind of sick for a self-proclaimed arcade game converted into a console experience.
I got lucky with this game because I found out it is rightfully classified as "abandonware" (due to the lapsed Ferrari license) and the PC version was actually available on the internet in its entirety. It's obviously better-looking and boasts elite performance compared to the shitty PS2/PSP versions I struggled with, so it all worked out in the end.
But the greater question remains: why should I have to go through all this shit to play a game? What happens when something loses a license to be produced on the digital platform AND you can't get a hold of the shitty physical system that houses it? It's a problem that keeps growing all the time and the answers aren't always going to be "just emulate it, dummy." In the case of titles like Metal Gear Solid 4, we might never see those games available on anything besides the goofy-ass cellular spine of the PS3. If I want to play Mischief Makers, there are 2 options: dig out a still-living N64 and the cart, or boot up Project 64 on my PC. There's just no way a Treasure game from the late 90s is going to be included on a compilation or dropped onto the Switch via some kind of "Treasure Ages" project, and I've accepted that. What's still troubling is that this option isn't always viable or even possible.
Some of my favorite obscure games, like Ogre Battle 64 or Symphony of the Night, have been fortunate in recent years to have a few conversions or ports to systems. But when I put the WiiU or the Vita to bed, it's also fortunate that I'll have copies of both on my computer to persuse. For games like Mischief Makers or Coast 2 Coast, it'll be the only viable way to experience them without shelling out obscene cash for equipment that might not even work as well anymore. In 2019, there are a few companies like Capcom and Sega that are still dedicated to not only publishing compilations of their classics, but ensuring that they're released for both the PC and your consoles. SquareEnix, to a degree, has also done this; though their propensity for tinkering and editing older games is something I still dislike. You'd expect Nintendo to do a bit more beyond the Classic hardware revisions or the pitiful Nintendo Online offerings, but only time will tell if they decide to try harder at creating a streamable vault of their software.
A part of me really wanted to own a playable version of Coast 2 Coast mainly due to the circumstances of its gradual erasure from servers and store shelves. For all the stupid shit about this hobby, I still love the history of it and all the development put into things like OutRun over the last decade or two. Being able to fire it up and enjoy it anytime is as good a way as any to preserve the past when there hasn't been a concrete way to do so.
It's fucking free. You owe it to yourself to get in on this one.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was a victim of a vast conspiracy. Not one equal to an Illuminati takeover, mind you, but a money-grubbing publisher that seemed hellbent on killing an amazing series with piecemeal promises turned to ash and tears in our mouths.
. For those of you uninitiated with the history of this current series, it boils down to this: it's a dystopia wherein technological advancements have given us augmented body parts, limbs, and organs, turning humans into something greater and more badass. However, since this is a true dystopia, the world has decided that something so cool and good is actually shit, mostly due to something something racial apartheid and also a slight accident that happened in the previous game, where millions of augmented people got their bodies hacked and went nuts for a few hours. You are Adam Jensen, the strongest supercop secret agent ever, and you have more augments than any human alive. Why is that? Something Illuminati something. Anyway, it doesn't matter, because you're dropped into the Kafkaesque world of Prague, and your mission is to help the public and investigate a recent terrorist attack.
DXMD curbs a lot from the previous Human Revolution game, which is mostly a good thing. Grates are still half of the solutions for puzzles, so it's good to see that grate construction and airduct design are universal from Detroit to Hong Kong to Czech Republic. I imagine there was some fucking Geneva Convention on how every secretive area must have at least one air duct leading in or out; I'm thankful for them, so thank you whoever put this mandate into effect. DXMD also brings back the classic "dialogue boss fights," though sometimes "winning" an argument with someone doesn't really lead to anything special. It's still very much a cover-based, sneak-oriented FPS RPG game, playing jack of all trades and master of none--you won't find these elements as refined as Hitman, Dishonored, Call of Duty, or Destiny, but they blend well enough such that you'll be asking the bartender for another.
DXMD also cribs the "start in a nervous city area and then proceed to the fucking slums" cycle, which is kind of lazy since I expected something different. Detroit is to Prague as Hong Kong's undercity is to Golem City; they're all still interesting but I wanted the developers to change shit up a little.
One of the hooks in DXMD is a brand new subsect of uberpowers like "exploding ceramic wristblade" or "psychic Mewtwo hacking" and "a really fast dash." As much as some of these are fun, I found myself relying on old standby powers like cloaking and Hulk hand takedowns, if not for their practicality but for their easy applications. The new powers, at first, require you to lock out other powers to balance things out, though spoiler alert--3/4 through the game you get to kind of go hogwild anyway. (Not that it matters with your annoyingly small battery life, even with upgrades.) At the very least, when DXMD tries to Metroid you with a skill reset, you are refunded 8 or 9 points at the start to use on mandatory shit like Icarus Landing System or Expanded Attache.
DXMD also promised a better weapon modular system, but this only amounts to "sometimes switch to EMP ammo, or maybe turn off your silencer." It's a complete non-feature that doesn't really add or subtract to the experience. The gunplay is the same as ever; not exactly Bungie-levels of control but it does the job in a cover-based RPG shootmans.
From a conceptual point, I have to say that my issues with the Mankind Divided story don't always lie within the plotline and environment, but rather with the piss-poor supporting cast. The game is badly damaged by the replacement of Pritchard, Malik, and Sarif with....your gruff "you're a loose cannon" boss, some whatever who cares co-worker who just vanishes midway, a sidekick hacker lady who you barely know shit about, and the CSI scanner guy I guess? I didn't feel much for Alex Vega, Smiley, or even Talos Rucker; whatever high notes they come close to hitting are snatched back due to constraint with the narrative. Adam, through it all, is also robbed of much of his personal vindication and emotional spots. In the previous game, you were at least in the center of trying to deal with your new body, the death of your girlfriend, and the Illuminati. Here, Adam just kind of coolly walks through the shit and handles things with annoyance, albeit with that killer gruff voice of his. One of the better sidequests involving actually honest-to-god detective work sees Adam doing some interesting beatcop shit, forging a nice connection with a crime victim and a world-weary desk sergeant. If Mankind Divided was more of a "super detective" simulator with shit like this and less of an "Interpol guy handling huge national crisis" thing, the character roster would have been richer for it. Instead, sidequests are just as mixed as the first game--not in terms of quality, but in ludonarrative disconnection. Handling snoop jobs for the office psychologist makes sense; finding some random cult in the sewer, less so. I suppose I can't complain though, since the better narratives and experiences lie within the sidequests. Maybe Squeenix should just go full-hog and make a Judge Dredd game instead so we can accept the distant, growly wetwork more readily.
The RPG system of Mankind Divided is much like how Human Revolution was: an amalgam of dialogue challenges, detective work, exploration, hacking, and clever application of your skills. But, what about the combat when push comes to shove? In my experience, combat in MD boils down to taking comfortable cover behind a shelf or desk, and pointing your shotgun at the conga line of morons who file in. I feel like this was a symptom of the map layouts, since even Human revolution had multi-tiered battlegrounds like the shootout and escape at Hengshua Gardens capsule hotel. DXMD has much of the same fight or flight scenarios, but it feels like the AI is more inclined to engaging head-on than in the previous game. Why they think they can fight the world's best supercop is a mystery to me, but when I was actually discovered and thus was forced to play sharpshooter, the fights didn't feel especially memorable. There's a reason why stealth is the preferable option, after all--though if you want to do a pseudo-psychopath run, the Titan augment is there for you. And if you're like me and prioritize a no-armor upgrade, stealth-focused playthrough, getting caught means that you probably don't have the ability to win any shootouts without cover. (This is actually how I think it ought to be, though the mediocre shooting mechanics make it less fun to engage in gun combat.)
3/4 through the game, the environment suddenly becomes uberhostile, and thus all the other remaining sidequests become boorish to travel to without fighting a jaded security force. I don't feel this is as significant a spoiler, mainly because it's a very significant low point in the entire game. Suddenly, things become extremely annoying, and the world's teeming life is replaced with laborious sneaking against armored foes. In fact, I was so loathe to play through this bullshit, that my whole review of this is appearing super late as a result. It seems to be a theme lately, too--lots of these immersive sims have a terrible third act that feels rushed.
I find it hard to grade DXMD on a slightly lower end than I wanted to, and I feel bad for the people who developed it with good intentions. It's common knowledge by now that Eidos was basically told by Squeenix to split their project in half so it could be sold in multiple parts--and as a result, DXMD suffers for it with a stunted end and a Frank Pritchard DLC being portioned off for monies. It's a disgustingly garbage tactic to try on consumers, and in the long run it ruined a lot of the game's potential to be even greater. I loved Human Revolution dearly--it felt so chromatically cool and fresh, giving you more of a super-detective / pseudo security chief mystery story than the Interpol agent narrative that Mankind Divided offers. In my opinion, the street-level work that Adam did in the previous game was far more interesting, especially with the tense political and emotional resonance involved (and Pritchard.) Mankind Divided's status as a good game instead of a great one is largely due to not only the weaker storyboard and location, but the unfortunate chopjob that Square saw fit to execute. Much like many of the unlucky Augs, Mankind Divided was taken apart for extortionist measure. What's worse is that Deus Ex as a series has been sent to the freezer indefinitely, as Square-Enix now focuses on a potential Avengers cash cow game. It's hugely fucked up that this game was mutilated just to be portioned off, and now we won't even get the goddamn conclusion that was being held hostage. I hate to see such a grand intellectual property die like this. I can only hope that, in the future, they sell off this property to someone who has the capacity to give it earnest love and effort--like Arkane and original writer Harvey Smith, for instance. Until then, we can only dream of electric sheep and microtransactions.
Better luck next time, Hanzer.