I’d intended for this article to be published earlier this week, but it became clear when I was some way through my piece that I’d be better off repurposing it as a general comment on where we may be headed with subscription services in general. I’m quite proud of how that turned out; go check out my ‘Netflix for Games?’ article if you have time – and let me know your thoughts.
We’re not here to talk about subscription services today though. Well, we are here to talk about Game Pass, but more specifically about the games I’ve been playing on the service recently.
An excellent Metroidvania with a wonderful pixel art style that evokes classic rotoscoped platformers of yesteryear such as Another World and Flashback. I haven’t played a lot, but its roguelike elements, stylish aesthetic and challenging gameplay will definitely see me coming back for more at some point.
An entirely different proposition to the indies I’ve been seeking to check out on Game Pass recently, Jump Force is a big budget beat ‘em up that smashes together several popular manga/animé franchises. With only passing familiarity with the franchises involved, the (admittedly well-produced) interminably long cutscenes really bored me – and the gameplay, though clearly feeling big in scale and giving you a suitable feeling of power, felt dull and repetitive. There’s an awful lot of content to uncover and play through, but it all feels incredibly impenetrable to a non-fan like me – though it’s great to see such a big, non-Microsoft Studios title appear on Game Pass, Jump Force isn’t a game that has any appeal to me – and won’t be one that I’ll return to. One for the fans, I think.
Already covered in my recent review, I had been curious about Hello Neighbor for a long time, given its popularity and availability on just about any device you can think of (including mobile!). Turns out that the game is absolutely atrocious – and the only explanation I can come up with for its popularity is its attempt at jump scares, which must go over well with YouTubers. However, even these scares fail to excite after the first two – and the art style can’t rescue a badly designed game with contrived puzzles and poor implementation of even the most basic mechanics. A major disappointment.
GoNNER – BLüEBERRY EDiTION
Though I haven’t played much of GoNNER (seriously, what is up with that title styling?), it’s a cute little puzzle platformer in which everything feels pretty abstract and little is explained, but – unlike Hello Neighbor – it’s pretty intuitive, if still very challenging. The general aesthetic is fantastic and there’s some wonderful audiovisual flourishes; this is definitely a game I need to devote more time to.
Gears of War 2
My general lack of enthusiasm for the first game – again, well documented here – didn’t stop me from moving straight on to the second. I’m glad I did! It’s still early on in the game, but it already feels more expansive in scope, as well as much more colourful in general (I absolutely hated the dull aesthetic of the first game – it’s probably one of the reasons I couldn’t get excited about it) and a lot more varied in terms of the environments you play through. Despite not having been remastered as the first game was (impressively, it must be said), Gears of War 2 still looks pretty impressive on Xbox One. I’ll continue to make my way slowly through the series, which is available in its entirety on Game Pass.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
I’ve been playing through the first game in local co-op; though it has a weird setup where you’re not quite sure if you’re going to be playing in co-op or not (this really needs a fix, it’s utterly bizarre), splitscreen multiplayer remains a captivating experience. Interior levels can feel confusing in their layouts at times and grenades being mapped to the left trigger by default does cause some unintended suicides, but the enemy AI is still great and the moment to moment gameplay (the fabled ’30 seconds of fun’ design philosophy) remains an absolute joy. The lore is often awkwardly delivered – sometimes during noisy battles – and has never been something that’s grabbed me, but it’s there if you want to dig deeper into the story of the Halo universe.
Forza Horizon 4
It’s a bit of a cheat to include this here, because I’ve been mostly playing through more of the Lego Speed Champions map and challenges – the Lego DLC is not included in Game Pass – but the fact remains: Forza Horizon 4 is an absolutely fantastic game and I can’t get enough of it. With no interest in cars or racing games in general, it’s been a revelation to discover one that I can pick up for 10 minutes or a few hours, have fun with, and still feel like I’ve made progress even when I’m not playing through any actual races. So much to do and so much to discover in a wonderful recreation of an idealised UK; I can’t see myself putting this aside for a long time.
A fan of Worms since playing the first one on the PlayStation – way back in the mid-90s – it’s a franchise that has been as important to my gaming social life as Bomberman, though not for quite as long. Post-pub sessions of Worms were a staple of late 90s gaming nights, with Worms Armageddon on Dreamcast being the peak for me and my friends. So it was great to rediscover a series that I hadn’t gone back to for a while – having only played through the tutorial missions in order to refamiliarise myself with the original weapons (and discover some of the ones that are new additions to me – hello Tank and Mech!), I can already see that this is going to be a ton of fun in single player against the AI and – when I can gather together some players – in local multiplayer too.
So there we have it. A quick overview of my Game Pass Adventures from the last few weeks; for the most part, these would have been games I would not have played without having access to them on Microsoft’s excellent subscription services. Not only is it a great way of finding new favourites, but also – in the case of games like Jump Force and Hello Neighbor – a way to try games that I would have regretted purchasing, had I got hold of them through the more traditional route instead of having them available via subscription. I do fear the industry heading all-digital for reasons outlined in my previous article, but subscription services in general definitely have their benefits for gamers.
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