It’s been a while, and I’ve been bouncing between a lot of different games over the last summer, so I figured it was time to put down some thoughts on several titles that have been peaking my interest over the exceptionally hot summer both in gaming and in life.
PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS aka PUBG
It’s no small secret that this game has exploded in popularity over the past few months, but what isn’t widely known is that this has become my “go to” game on pretty much a nightly basis. Over 200 hours of game time, I’ve been lucky enough to win the chicken dinner in all 3 modes (solo, duo and squad). Simply put, this is a really good game, and it technically isn’t even out yet (still Early Access). The developers have been consistently working on the game with patches to improve performance as well as tidbits of new content (guns & cosmetics) but in reality the gameplay is what’s king here. I’m fascinated with how each mode plays very differently (at least in my mind) with solo being a white knuckle experience from the time you hit the ground, duos gives you the freedom to ease off a bit as you have a partner to help watch your blind spots and strategize, as well as back you up in a firefight. The squad game is where I spend most of my time though, shooting the breeze with several friends and occasionally engaging in intense firefights that can pop up out of nowhere.
As someone who’s not the “best” at shooters, it’s still pretty amazing that I’ve felt my skill improve as I’ve played more and more. There is nothing more satisfying than going into a firefight and coming out on top (other than the chicken dinner of course). But it’s also a game where the failures can be JUST as memorable as the wins, and some of the funniest moments I’ve had gaming this year. It’s gotten to the point where I’m excitedly reading patch notes to see what the team is doing with updates. I’m even excitedly looking forward to trying the console version out later this year to see how well it translates to a controller setup.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
I pretty much binged this game over 2 long play sessions the week it came out, and I have to say it disturbed me in the best way. I don’t have a strong reverence for developer Ninja Theory’s other games (Enslaved, DmC, Heavenly Sword), but based on the positive “buzz”, the short playtime (6 hours), and the stunning graphics I gave it a whirl. The gameplay mostly consisted of simple puzzles and combat arenas, both of which were executed fine, but it’s the story, art direction and performances that set the game apart.
It’s also amazing to see a fantasy game take on such a heavy subject like mental illness head on, and the way it’s presented is mostly with the main character being constantly bombarded with voices from all directions. The game even advises you to play with headphones as all the audio was recorded with 3D space in mind. In addition to the audio, the game actually incorporates FMV into the game engine in a really interesting way that enhances the “dreamlike” quality the character sees the world through. It’s an absolute must play and easily one of the most “adult” games I’ve played this year.
I’ll admit it, I never actually played this game when it came out. After all the hype, adjulation, hate and backlash I never did get around to this when it came out. After finishing Hellblade though, I wanted something “chill” to play. I had vague ideas about the story that was being told in the game, but I’m happy to say that even all the periphery spoilers didn’t actually tarnish my impression of this game. It’s impressive that a game 4 years old still has such a great emotional weight considering other games released since then. I appreciated the subtlety of the story being presented through letters, tape recordings and other media. If I did have one regret about the game it’s that I didn’t play it sooner.
I was a Nintendo kid, which meant Sonic was always in the realm of “lame” for me growing up. Having later played some of the games via emulation in college and beyond, I can appreciate some of the things that the franchise did for gaming over the years, but I’m not among those constantly heartbroken by crappy games over the years. I decided to pick up the latest title mostly because people referred to it as “the game fan’s always wanted Sega to make.” I can tell you this plays just like a 2D Sonic game, warts and all. Where the game excels is in its presentation and soundtrack. The controls are just as you remember them, especially the part where you constantly don’t feel like you’re actually able to make the character do what you want One particular instance where this became a problem was trying to have Sonic jump off a spinning mast, which for some reason I couldn’t get down no matter how different my timing was. Overall though I enjoy the remixed music the most, especially the Studiopolis track.
The common joke since this was announced back in 2011 was always “Is it a game?” and finally six years later I can confirm that fact that this is indeed the case. What I’m still trying to wrap my head around is whether or not it’s good. After getting this as a gift from a buddy, I jumped right into the deep end and started playing, and the first thing I can say is the game has an overload of content. From menu upon menu of skills, crafting, heroes, survivors, defenders, resources it all comes at you entirely too fast and without much in the way of a tutorial on what you should be doing. It took me nearly a week and a half to realize one of the base resources needed for crafting traps & weapons is literally a schematic in a different menu. It’s almost like the developers expected everyone playing to just dig into these obtuse menus to find out how to do things.
But enough on the interface, how does it actually play? Not bad, although the current gameplay loop has you running through story missions only sporadically. This is mainly due to the high resource requirements for your weapons (which break and need to be remade), as well as building and trap materials (all of which don’t carry over mission to mission except your “home” base). I’ve spent more of the game actually grinding old levels that playing the story content. So while the game feels “ready” from a play perspective I’m hoping the next year or so can be used to fine tune the experience for the better.
Now with Summer coming to a close it's time to go to PAX and look at a bunch of games I'll probably get to play next year. Or I'll still just be playing Battlegrounds, we'll see.