I’ve still been making great use of Game Pass; there’s so much available and so many great quality games on offer that I can see me subscribing for a very long time. What is it that’s been grabbing my attention recently though?
Gears of War Ultimate Edition
Unpopular opinion time: I was never a fan of Gears of War. Though I recognise the impact and influence the first game had on gaming in general – in particular third-person shooters – I just never really enjoyed it. Enemies barely react as you fill them with bullets (until they dramatically and hilariously die), the straight-faced story becomes unintentionally funny in trying SO HARD to be serious and ‘mature’, vehicle sections are poor and the linear, restrictive levels quickly become repetitive.
Yet – here I am playing through it again. I’m still not having a great time, but I’m over halfway through the single player campaign and even I have to admit that there is still a spark of appeal to some of the setpieces. I’ve found that the flow of the game works better in shorter play sessions; I am keen to complete it again and move on through the saga, as I’ve never played any of the other games, given how disappointed I was with the first. I’m informed that it gets better from here (though I’m always told that ‘it was great back when it was first released’ – in my opinion, it was always all hype and no trousers, having played it to completion the first time) so we shall see. With the entire series available on Game Pass, I’ll plough my way through it no matter what. I do intend to keep going in order to get to Gears 5, which is the first Gears I’ve been excited about since the opening chapter in the saga. Let’s hope I do get that far!
Utterly charming game that, at first glance, looks like a PS1/N64 era platforming collectathon. However, there’s one big difference – instead of a nimble, acrobatic, humanoid character, you play as a very slithery snake. It’s a joy to slide your way through the gorgeously colourful environments – the controls are sublime and everything feels just right. It’s a charming game that seems to have been criminally overlooked in favour of bigger games – but you should definitely give Sumo Digital’s excellent Snake Pass a try if you get a chance.
Like the later Gears of War, Halo was a massively influential game when it first released. It redefined possibilities for FPS games on console, but also informed FPS design across the board too. It brought huge, open environments (on many stages, anyway) to a genre typically known for restrictive corridors and linear levels, with a perfect blank slate of an avatar in Master Chief and some great enemy AI. Despite showing its age in some areas, it’s still a hugely satisfying game to play and I’m looking forward, as with Gears of War, to getting deeper into the saga than I’ve been before (though with Halo it’s just everything post-ODST that I’ve never played).
Forza Horizon 4
I did mention how much I was enjoying Forza Horizon 4 in a previous blog post that focused on the Lego Speed Champions DLC; what’s surprised even me is how much I’m still enjoying it. I’m barely going back into the ‘real’ world right now – the Lego expansion is just such a joy, with so much to work your way through, that I can’t see myself going back to the main game until I’ve completed as many challenges as I can in the beautifully tactile Lego Valley. Wonderful stuff.
Though Crackdown 3 has been touted as one of the most crushing disappointments of this gen, I’ve had a lot of fun with it nonetheless. I find it bizarre that you have such a wide choice of Agents – you either choose Terry Crews or any one of several generic Agents, which begs the question: why would anyone choose an Agent who isn’t Terry Crews? From the bombastic and hilarious opening sequence, Crews is an excellent addition to the Crackdown formula, but it’s easy to see why so many people were disappointed with the game – it’s little more than a repeat of the first game, which came out twelve years ago. Even then, things like the transforming cars are completely absent – so not only does it feel strikingly similar to the original in some ways, in others it feels like a step back.
There’s no denying how addictive and compelling the city-as-open-playground formula remains, however – collecting agility orbs, that you can spot from a ridiculous distance away, is as wonderful as it always was. The city looks great – if low on detail – with cel shading and Tron-esque cyberpunk neon bringing a unique visual style, but there’s no denying that it’s not the next gen leap we were promised, at least in single player. I’ve yet to try the separate multiplayer component – though it seems to me that the destruction of structures that it features would negatively affect the verticality and superhuman parkour that is at the core of the game’s appeal. I’m not sure I would have been pleased if I’d bought Crackdown 3 at full price, but the single player at least is a great diversion to be included with Game Pass.
Wow, now this is a game that’s been a truly great surprise. Coming across as a simian, similarly gory Hotline Miami with a percussive – and reactive – jazz soundtrack, Ape Out is an absolute pleasure. Available on PC Game Pass only at the moment (though also available to buy on Nintendo Switch), it’s a very addictive game with a gorgeously animated, minimalist visual style and an amazingly satisfying, almost pinball-esque rhythm to the gameplay. Another of the smaller titles I’d urge you to try out if you get the chance.
So there we have it. Another Game Pass roundup with a look at some of the bigger games available on the service – with a few lesser known titles thrown in for good measure. I’ll continue exploring – there’s been some great additions recently – and will of course cover further games in another round up.
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