I Have Played Some Games

It's been a weird year for games. I've got brand new boxes sat under my TV, powerful consoles that I've mostly been using to play last-gen games, do-overs, and more compact experiences that could've easily ran on older hardware.

A weird year for games, and one that I have yet to blog about. This lack of sharing is mostly due to my retrospective 8th Gen series dragging on for 6 months longer than it should've. And it really did drag, despite being an excellent read that I highly recommend! After a few posts, I came to realize that my love for the last round of consoles is somewhat lacking, and while there were plenty of games that I enjoyed, there are very few that I was inspired to write about.

Right now, I desperately want a new game to excite me. Something that I absolutely need to play on day one; something I'm happy to pay full whack for. Lost Judgment will be fun later this month, but I'm not fussed about playing it immediately. Fingers crossed Forza Horizon 5 will be the next-gen leap we've all been waiting for, but if it weren't on Game Pass I probably wouldn't be there at launch. I think that's pretty much it for the rest of the year, which is disappointing to say the least.

I see lots of older games getting replayed in my immediate future. And that's fine, but it'd be nice if these new consoles would start justifying their existence.

Anyway, I have played some great games this year, and none greater than the Mass Effect Legendary Edition. I ploughed through 1-3 without pause, a glorious hundred-hour space epic RPG that I was genuinely sad to finish. It was my first full playthrough of ME1 and I was suitably impressed. ME2 remains an all-timer, blessed with tight narrative design that imbues you with a sense of purpose and urgency from start to finish. It is completely irresistible. That was a tough act to follow, but ME3 manages to be a hugely satisfying and indulgent end to the trilogy. I loved most of the DLC too, which I hadn't touched before. Each entry is unique, yet they work together perfectly, each a beautiful complement to what came before or what would come after.

I enjoyed being back in that universe so much that I might even play Andromeda. Expect loud complaints.

With Assassin's Creed Valhalla out the way, a game which I rated rather highly, I finally lavished some attention on my PS5 at the very start of the year. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales was fun, but I'd stop short of calling it memorable. The Demon's Souls Remake had my undivided attention for a few weeks and Astro's Playroom charmed my socks off. Returnal, however, did not. I've never played a game that revels so completely in wasting your time. Returnal is a rudimentary game-save system short of being special, but that absence sunk the entire experience for me. I stuck with it for many hours - the result of a mix of FOMO, love for Housemarque, enjoyable combat, and a longing for a truly next-gen experience - but I can't remember the last time a highly-anticipated game annoyed me this much.

Mafia: Definitive Edition feels terribly dated in design, but I still really liked it. I revisited Titanfall 2 to check that it is still nice, and it is nice. I have nothing but good things to say about Yakuza: Like a Dragon, but you already knew that because you definitely read what I wrote about it in my 8th Gen Countdown. Just in case you need a reminder, It came in at no. 4, which is pretty good.

Monster Hunter Rise is a very welcome evolution. Everything is so much easier and quicker to get into than it used to be. Brevity is valued in the field, but all the gameplay loops remain as effective and addictive as ever. I don't want to compare it to MH World, as these are clearly two different approaches to the same game, but I think I'd struggle to go back to World's more deliberate pace. Sticking with Switch, I really enjoyed the Panzer Dragoon remake, despite its obvious failings, and I'm currently mulling No More Heroes 3 because I fancy something stylish and still have a lot of nostalgia for the first game. I think I might hate it though, which is usually a good reason to stay away.

Moving to the Series X, I have been jumping between Game Pass offerings. Quake, The Ascent, Genesis Noir, Cyber Shadow, Bejeweled 3 (leave me alone), and NFS Hot Pursuit were all enjoyable to varying extents, but I didn't spend much time with any of them. However, I did stick with a few games. The most recent is Art of Rally, which is lovely to look it, sounds great, but does get a little repetitive, even with the randomized course designs. I both hated and enjoyed Doom Eternal, though probably more the former than the later. The Medium is very dated, but it was a nice change of pace and is very atmospheric.

The last six months, I have found myself increasingly drawn to older consoles. My Dreamcast and Saturn have been seeing a lot of action of late, and I've had the PS3 intermittently hooked up to a PC monitor. Mercari has kept me in a healthy supply of games and trawling the app for bargains has become a favoured pastime. Recent-ish Dreamcast purchases have included Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Jet Set Radio and Street Fighter Zero 3. As for Saturn, I've mostly been playing old favourites like Sega Rally and Nights, as well as yet another failed attempt at Snatcher. On my PS3, I derived far too much pleasure from Troy Muso and quite enjoyed the hours I put into Split/Second. I have a pile of around a dozen more PS3 games to get through but I'm in no rush, as there's little danger of any of them being remastered for modern consoles.

Fair warning: I'm starting to experience serious pangs of nostalgia for PS3-Wii-360. But that's a conversation for another day.

As for right now, I'm playing the Final Fantasy IX remaster on my PS5. A three-year-old port of a twenty-year-old game, running on my cutting-edge home console. 

How very 2021.


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