The Roundup: PS VR2’s Big Day, Apple NYC Event, Harry Potter Meets Elden Ring, And More!

By Ronald Gordon

Hello and welcome back to the Roundup! It’s Critics Circle’s method of gathering up stories from interns and members alike, and giving them a shoutout. This week we’ve got news on a showcase of Apple’s new gaming capabilities, the PS VR2 and how it plays, a review of Fire Emblem: Engage, and so much more! 

Starting off, Apple has been making plenty of moves towards engaging more with games as a whole. In a recent event at one of their many offices, this one in Manhattan, Apple paired up with various developers in order to display the new and improved capabilities of the Mac systems, Apple TV, and iPad – and, of course, Apple Arcade games. At our session were Circle members Dan Ackerman, Scott Stein, Michelle Ehrhardt and Harold Goldberg

The first and most important update to their systems is called Apple Metal 3, an application programming interface (API) that allows for developers to write and adapt code onto Apple devices. One of the many original games that benefits from this is a western stealth game called El Hijo. Showcased on the newest Apple TV, which provided crisp quality visuals, I was able to play seamlessly with a PS5 DualSense controller despite there being no such console in sight. Outside of games already on Apple systems, there was also a game that transitioned from console to Apple systems. 

Bloober Team, which are the Polish developers behind The Medium, fully adapted the game onto the new Mac systems with the help of the API. Having kept most of their code intact, The Medium on Apple systems runs at stunning 4K graphics with uncapped framerate potential. Alongside Bloober Team came a tiny group of indie developers. 

Talofa games is a small team behind a revolutionary fitness game called Run Legends. Using the new and improved software of the iPhone, Run Legends reacts to the player’s walking/running speed in order to battle monsters and overcome the negativity of people in your everyday life. 

Surprisingly, there was also a new game from miHoYo, the studio behind the widely renowned Genshin Impact. Utilizing the newly established power of the iPad and Apple’s improvements, this new game called Honkai: Star Rail is much bigger in scale than anything shown before. Featuring wide open areas, fluid turn based combat, multiple words to explore, Honkai: Star Rail almost feels as though it could be on consoles yet the iPad runs it beautifully. 

Of course, there was far more showcased than just what I’ve listed, but here’s an article from Circle Member Mike Andronico to cover what I couldn’t.

This really has been Sony week when it comes to reviews. Sony hopes to expand its PS5 base of 30 million-plus console owners with virtual reality.Harold Goldberg brings his review of the new PS VR2 Headset to the Observer. Having gotten the chance to play around with it before it was released, Harold has plenty to say about the way it feels to go kayaking in the Antarctic with Kayak VR: Mirage. “When the headset arrived, it was indeed bulky to wear at 20 ounces. They all are. Yet quickly downloading and indulging in Kayak VR: Mirage, the first game I played, was like traveling around the world. I’m probably never going to kayak in Antarctica, but this allowed that voyage, zippy penguins included.” On top of having 4K graphics and boasting a wide array of games to play as soon as you buy the system, the PS VR2 brings mountains of joy to anyone wanting to feel the action of games such as Horizon Call of the Mountain. “There wasn’t fear to any of this, just three or four wondrous “holy crap” gasps that made me realize Sony had created a super-engaging piece of software that takes up nearly 45 gigabytes of the PS5’s data space.” 

Next up we have Isaac Espinosa, who has a long time Fire Emblem Fanatic view about the recent Fire Emblem: Engage. While not delivering too much in terms of story, FE: Engage seemed to hook Isaac with its choice of music and method of changing up gameplay mechanics. “Engage introduces some elements that set it apart from its predecessors. The Weapon Triangle is back, and with it the Rock-Paper-Scissors style of combat in which Swords beat Axes, Axes beat Lances, and Lances beat Swords. However, it’s not quite the same as before. The new Breaking mechanic, for example, allows a unit that has the advantage to completely strip the enemy of their weapon. So even if they’re a bulky tank, they won’t be able to counterattack for another turn of combat.” While it may not be anything new, Engage is still a great game in the eyes of a long time Fire Emblem fan, which is good to hear regardless. 

Scott Stein brings news on another famous VR Headset, that being the Meta Quest and it’s newly improved Hand-Tracking capacities. In competition with the PS VR2, the Meta Quest comes in to show off hand-tracking technology that could lead to typing entirely in VR. “Quest’s v50 update, announced Tuesday and rolling out now, adds an experimental mode called “Direct Touch allows for reaching out and just tapping a button with your virtual finger instead. Direct Touch also works on virtual keyboards, which means that typing on the pop-up Quest keyboard whenever it appears hovering in the air could feel less awkward, too.” Seeing VR improve rapidly is a spectacle in and of itself, but knowing soon that entire stories/essays can be written within a virtual space is a fascinating idea. “Meta’s CTO, Andrew Bosworth, believes future Quest headsets could potentially ship without controllers, but at the moment hand tracking hasn’t been good enough yet to make that happen: “I think it’s pretty possible that someday we could ship a headset that didn’t have controllers with them … (b)ut we’re not there yet,” Bosworth told CNET last December.” 

For those who aren’t planning on playing Hogwarts Legacy due to controversy, Alyssa Mercante assures you that Elden Ring has the perfect mod to fill that magic hole. While many have chosen to ignore the controversy about the game and its literary counterpart, others have looked for ways to enjoy magic combat without fear of feeding into J.K. Rowling’s revenue. To this, Alyssa brings news of a group that mods New York Game Awards’ GOTY Winner Elden Ring for a living. “Garden of Eyes is a team of modders that has already pulled off some impressive feats in FromSoftware’s 2022 GOTY…The next big mod coming from the collective is one inspired entirely by Hogwarts Legacy, bringing broomstick flight and a handful of spells like Confringo (which shoots fire) and Avada Kedavra (which kills people).” Hearing the fact that a Hogwarts Legacy mod is underway in Elden Ring is no surprise to me, but what may surprise me more is how it’ll handle when it’s launched. While I may not be the biggest Harry Potter fan out there, even I can admit that flying on a broomstick doesn’t exactly sound like it’ll have the best controls.  

Beyond the Circle 

With Street Fighter 6 on the way to competitive events all over, it’s no wonder that Capcom included a more than substantial prize for their Capcom Pro Tour series. Written up in a Polygon article by Oli Welsh, the prize pool for the upcoming event is said to be $2 million! A guaranteed $1 million going to the first place winner of the tournament itself. “The announcement was made at the end of Capcom Cup IX on Sunday, Feb. 19. The last Cup to be fought in Street Fighter 5 was won by MenaRD, a.k.a. Saul Leonardo Mena Segundo from the Dominican Republic. The prize pool for the 2022 Pro Tour and Capcom Cup IX was just $300,000, which shows just how serious Capcom is about launching Street Fighter 6 with a splash on the esports scene.” The idea of carrying home $1 million after being a part of Street Fighter 6’s first official tournament is mindblowing, and is sure enough going to incentivise a lot of talented players to try their hardest at learning the new game. 

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