If nihilism requires humans to find meaning on their own, it is a bit paradoxical for Android to find meaning in humans.
This is the central query that pervades NieR: Automata. Developed by PlatinumGames and published by Square Enix, the 2017 masterpiece led by the mysterious director Toro Yoko debuted on PS4 and PC via Steam. The game didn’t run smoothly on either platform. But in 2018, Automata’s dedicated digital port appeared on the Xbox One. And of all the versions of the game, the Xbox One X iteration performed best. The new NieR: Automata Gets as Gods Edition is back in the news as this improved version is now available to PC users via the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. This is a must-see for PC gamers using the Xbox Series X and Xbox Game Pass.
When it was first announced, the PS4 version of NieR: Automata ran at a resolution of 1600×900 without antialiasing. This low resolution made the game look blocky, especially when compared to other high-budget action titles like Uncharted. The PS4 Pro version increased the resolution to 1920×1080 and included antialiasing to blur the jagged edges. Also, motion blur has been added.
Being a PlatinumGames title, running at 60fps was a substantial requirement of Automata. Even the PS4 Pro version of the game couldn’t reach 1440p or 4K resolution because the developers prioritized frame rate.
Oddly enough, the PC version via Steam had many of the same issues as the PS4 version. From screen size issues to slower frame rates, the community had to create mods to mitigate some of the performance issues. Digital Foundry has a large breakdown of PC ports.
NieR: Automata Become as Gods Edition was launched a year later on Xbox One as a digital-only title. The Xbox One X version performed much better than the PS4 and PC versions. The game ran at a resolution of 1920×2160. This is half the number of pixels in 4K resolution, but the game used a checkerboard reconstruction to output a 4K image. A similar technique may be used for the Xbox Series X / S versions.
Interestingly, the PC version of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the new Become as Gods Edition. This includes a series of performance and other quality of life improvements not found in the original Steam release. Unfortunately, anyone who owns NieR: Automata on Steam doesn’t seem to have access to this slightly expanded PC port. The Steam version has already been reviewed-it has been bombed by angry fans.
(Image credit: Square Enix)
NieR: Automata’s gameplay is a combination of standard PlatinumGames action formulas and several shoot-up actions. It’s a strange fusion of genres. The game switches camera perspectives and shifts from a third-person sword sword to barrage shooting in seconds. The ability of the game to fuse these two seemingly different ideas is a testament to Taro’s eccentric design sensibility.
But more important than creative gameplay and the mysterious open world is a philosophical bouncing story. A game featuring an android descending to Earth to kill an alien robot makes the protagonist question the rationale for her actions. Many robots attack you, but some evolve to question your existence. Your character, 2B, also begins to question her own motives.
It is a fascinating world of the far future, still embracing the gods and finding the truth through morality. It also raises questions about how much future AI could represent humanity. If AI ultimately develops free will, is it worthy of pure freedom without the moral composition of the Bible or the Quran? And is life without God good or bad?
The game names characters and bosses after key philosophers throughout history and infuse them with the same quality that leads to the downfall of real opponents.
For those who don’t want a fierce existential fillet, players can easily glaze the story and have a good time in fast-paced combat.
NieR: Automata is one of the games I’m relentlessly referencing and may seem exaggerated. However, for Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, it’s a good idea to set aside anime-inspired art, long-legged androids in leotards, and nose callout preconceptions. Jump into NieR and give in. You may find that you are experiencing a second or sixth playthrough.
Oh, and the music is absolutely amazing.
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