Psychonauts 2 – First Impressions (PC)

Wow, I have one major regret with Psychonauts 2, and that is not backing it on FIG. I was very skeptical. As a huge fan of the original game, despite its flaws, I was very skeptical a modern Double Fine, especially with their recent output which never connected with me, could pull it off again. They absolutely have though, in fact I would say they have surpassed the Original in many ways.

Story

The game starts off almost where the original ended, it takes place just after the Rhombus of Ruin (which is absolutely worth it if you are a fan of the series and own a compatible VR headset). Raz has just finished rescuing Truman Zanotto with the gang, Raz assumed he is now a fall fledged Psychonaut that is not the case. Just like the last game, he starts at the bottom, this time as an intern. I don’t want to spoil too much but what I will say is it is immediately apparent from the start, THIS IS PSYCHONAUTS.

I also want to point out my amazement at the cast of characters, not only is it huge, but there are also a ton of dialogue options for each character that has a key part in the story. It really adds to the building of not only the characters, but the world too. The VO delivery is so far fantastic, and the huge cast only add to the magical world of Psychonauts.

Art/Graphics

Now this is where I have mixed feelings, for some reason double fine ditched their original Engine and instead went for UE4 with pretty much default everything’s. The core art style is there and is still as fantastic as ever and still has its charm. It does however look off compared to the original.  The material shaders and the lack of baking has made it slightly uncanny. It’s still fundamentally brilliant art, but the UE4 pile of defaults with no real custom work hurts it compared to the original. Numbers wise it is better, artistically it’s not quite as good. I would recommend isntlaling reshade on PC and enabling AMD CAS, to get rid of the TAA blur.

Textures feel a bit low res, and the lighting is serviceable, pop in is a bit more egregious than I would like, and the game is not a looker in the numbers sense, but this is a cross gen title, and despite the absurd price tag MS has decided to shove on it, was a FIG funded title, so it has not had a huge budget. What Double Fine has managed to achieve however, is solid.

Gameplay

So, I am still early in the game, but what I can say is all the abilities you are familiar with are pretty much here and better than ever, there’s also some new mechanics introduced pretty quickly. There are now ways to upgrade and add modifications to said abilities, and there are a lot of upgrades and modifications in the game. The pin system which adds modifications is fantastic but feels a bit stingy.  There are multiple ways to lv up which gives you upgrade points and feels very organic and not at all grindy, due to the multiple ways you can earn experience.

The animations are fantastic, the slow walking, to running animation transition is sublime, jumping looks and feels great and so does the general movement. Melee feels impactful, dodging feels spot on, overall it does feel surprisingly good despite the transition to UE4 and is probably the best feeling 3D platformer in a very long time. I must tip my hat to double fine here, where other 3D platformers have failed for multiple reasons, whether it’s trying to feel exactly like the old days or forgetting what made them good, Double Fine has got it right. It feels like Psychonauts 1 but better.

The levels so far are fantastic and highly varied, the campus is surprisingly large and absolutely crammed with collectibles, which is a dream for people who grew up with 3D platformers like me. The open nature of the game has only made psychonauts better. There more you look around and explore the more you find, and nothing feels tacky, it all feels like it was thought about, absolutely adding to the world in the best possible way. There are also encounters you can miss if you don’t explore the world fully, which you absolutely should. There is a fantastic encounter with another intern called Sam that had me laughing my ass off.

Enemy variety and bosses have also been fantastic so far. They are very simple, but they have their own identity, and that’s Psychonaut’s strong point. The encounters including bosses so far are derivative, but due to their amazing designs, it does not matter. They all have their characters and are very memorable because of that, even if the gameplay is standard affair.

Sound

I am too early in to say yet again for sure, but everything I have heard and seen has been fantastic. The Voice Actors are fantastic, the quality of the VO audio is brilliant. The music is as great as you would expect from Psychonauts, all environmental sounds and sound effects are fundamentally solid. It has been a fantastic package so far.

PC Report

Now this is where things get messy. The game is 54.99, a sequel to a niche game (albeit brilliant), pricing it higher than even games like RE8 (a multimillion selling huge franchise). So given all that and Double Fine’s history developing for PC I expected much more. The settings menu is absolutely awful, it’s basically default UE4 with 0 granularity. There are no real mouse options, I believe the mouse is smoothed with no option within the game to turn it off. That aside it’s not much more positive, in fact it gets worse. DX11 suffers no caching stutters (but can not be used ont he game pas version) whatsoever, but it performs significantly worse with huge drops on a 3080 with it not using all the GPU.  

It feels like the game has been optimized for 60FPS and that is it, if they hit that number on their targets, they just stopped optimising right there.  DX12 performs much better, but suffers from caching stutters, which is standard for poor UE4 implementations, the game is likely very blueprint heavy and built poorly, which is typical for most UE4 games. The FPS however is significantly higher, about 50%+ better depending on the area on my 3080 OC and 8700K combo. I’ve also noticed the core clock is quite low in a lot of areas while maintaining 140fps locked at 1440p maxed out, there are other areas however where GPU usage seems very high, and clocks are at their max for no apparent reason.

So, this is a flawed PC version, priced absurdly high, I’m not sure if I would call it terrible but it is definitely bad from a technical perspective.

Bugs

I do have to say I have had soem bugs, where I just fall through objects, or clip through areas I should not be able to clip through and fall through more objects and either get stuck, or have to glitch my way back through. I’ve also seen some people with preogression bugs or losing data. So while it is indeed playable, it should be more polished especially at its price.

Conclusion

It is ultimately too early to score the game, but I feel like this will be a 9/10 if not a 10/10 for me. It’s the original but built upon in almost every single way, I never in my wildest dreams thought the game would end up turning out this good. I regret being sceptical, even if it was understandable.

Double Fine have absolutely delivered here, and while I am going through some pretty bad times, this has put a big old smile on my face (which is no easy feat) and is another reminder that games can still be fantastic, and there is still some talent out there.  My only complaint is the increase from the £34.99 fig price for 1+2 and your name in credits to £54.99 for 2 alone, which is clearly intended to push game pass sales, one of the many negative aspects of game pass that will be appearing soon.

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