From time to time, I like to briefly cover the games I’ve recently been playing on the Xbox One’s Game Pass subscription service. Since I acquired my Xbox One X late last year, Game Pass has transformed the way I play games – it’s allowed me access to countless titles, games that I would have been either unlikely to afford or wouldn’t have given a chance in the first place. There’s also games I’ve tried before, but have had the chance to play again now…
I’ve played Superhot before on other formats – even on PSVR, which was spectacular – but I’ve finally managed to finish the main story after downloading it on a whim, completing it over this (very stormy) weekend. If you haven’t played Superhot, you really should; it’s an absolutely brilliant take on FPS games, based around the mechanic of time being frozen unless you move. It has the feel of a more tactical game, but makes you feel like you’re Keanu Reeves – sat in a hugely addictive midpoint between John Wick’s fight choreography and Neo dodging bullets in The Matrix. The visuals are incredibly stylish, it’s got intriguing commentary on the nature of player agency in gaming and there are extra modes (endless arenas and a challenge mode, for example) unlocked post-campaign to keep you coming back for more – and you will. An absolutely superb game.
Sniper Elite 4
I very much enjoyed my time with Sniper Elite 3, the first game in the series that I’d played. So I was very keen to play the fourth title; though it doesn’t feel drastically different to the third game in the series mechanically, the levels feel much more expansive and open, which leads to lots of freedom in the way that objectives can be approached. There’s plenty of room for experimenting with how targets are dispatched and the sniper kill cam – in which the camera tracks your bullet in dramatic, cinematic slow motion before switching to an x-ray of your target, displaying the gory effects of the projectile’s impact – remains a wonderfully dark, often hilarious payoff to your patient setting up of shots. Let’s face it, shooting Nazis in the balls never gets old, does it?
Gears of War 2
After playing through the entirety of the first Gears of War game last year – and intending to cover the entire series one at a time – I stalled a bit after getting a little way into Gears of War 2. That’s no reflection of the game’s quality at all; I’m actually enjoying this one, despite a few niggles that still remain. I wasn’t a massive fan of the first game’s brown and grey feel – or the repetitive, boring scenery – but Gears 2 feels a lot more colourful and varied in level design. The scale of the areas you find yourself battling in is still incredibly impressive – and considering it’s just over eleven years old, it somehow still looks remarkably good from a visual point of view. It does show how ahead of the curve the Gears series was from a technical standpoint; even if the gameplay isn’t always on point, there’s an awful lot more variety and colour to make this a much more satisfying game to progress through. There’s still an awful lot of unintentionally hilarious bro on bro action here; and yes, it’s also as unintentionally homoerotic as that statement implies.
Nearly six years on from release, Goat Simulator remains my most played game in terms of hours on Steam – and I’m still playing it to this day. It’s a deliberately janky, lo-fi and hilariously surreal game that’s perfect for just sitting back and having fun with. Still one of the most unpretentiously fun and funny games I’ve ever played, deliberately ignored bugs and all.
Steamworld Dig 2
I loved the first Steamworld Dig and the second is just as good. It suffers a little from being a bit too similar to the first, but thankfully the Metroidvania exploration and mining remains compellingly addictive. The visuals are beautifully colourful and stylishly rendered in a wonderful cartoon style; the charming script and tight gameplay mechanics really do make this one worth playing. If you haven’t played the original, don’t worry – though the story does continue after the end of the first, it’s not the primary focus of the game – so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything too drastic.
So there we are; another eclectic mix of games, barely scratching the surface of what’s on offer. I’ve seen arguments on social media about how anti-consumer Game Pass is (the leaps in logic used to justify this stance have to be seen to be believed), but I’ve honestly found it indispensable since the day I bought my Xbox One. Considering the terrible start to the generation that Xbox One had (quite rightly too, given its atrocious reveal, forced Kinect and the horrendously misguided, blatantly anti-consumer attempts to end sales of pre-owned games), it’s remarkable how much Microsoft have managed to rehabilitate their own image and that of the console itself. I never thought I’d be saying this even a year ago, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the next generation holds for Xbox.
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