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With no end in sight to the current situation with COVID-19, for many of us gaming has been a welcome respite from the anxiety and general uncertainty that’s disrupted our normal day to day lives. Game Pass has been invaluable for me, as it so often is – particularly given that everyone’s financial situation and job security is uncertain – having access to such a wide variety and large volume of games for such a low monthly price is worth its weight in gold right now.

So what have I been checking out on Game Pass in recent weeks? Let’s take a look…

Bleeding Edge

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Though competitive online gaming really isn’t my thing, I thought – as I often do with Game Pass titles – that I may as well give Bleeding Edge a shot (pardon the pun). It’s quite a vibrantly designed title – if unimpressive from a technical point of view – with an admirable variety and sense of inclusivity amongst its roster of heavily body-modified characters. That said, the gameplay feels a little on the thin side and – as is the nature of online multiplayer titles – unfortunately it seems as if you need to put a lot of work in to remain competitive; despite its extensive tutorial and newbie friendly mechanics, expect to be dispatched pretty quickly by regular players if you’re joining now without any experienced friends to help you out.

Gears 5

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Having finished the main campaign of Gears 5 recently (and finding it to be the best story the series has seen, by far), I thought I’d simply move on to my next game and not go back. Yet for the first time ever, I’ve been drawn into the online modes – with Escape and Horde becoming fast favourites. Away from the frustrations and toxic community of the competitive modes, the co-operative game types are hugely satisfying – and being able to bolster your team with AI soldiers makes things even easier to set up and get going with. It’s taken me a very long time, but I finally see the appeal of the online portion of Gears, at least the non-competitive parts.

Forza Horizon 4

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One of the first games I played when I bought my Xbox One X – and still one that I play regularly. It’s such a huge, varied and open game that I can’t see myself ever tiring of Forza Horizon 4; there’s a near endless stream of content and I’ve still barely even scratched the surface of its races, content with exploring, amassing a fleet of cars and finding collectables in the British countryside. It’s an absolute joy to play – and I don’t even have any interest in cars or racing games in general.

Totally Reliable Delivery Service

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Another game I thought would be a novelty, but which has actually provided some laidback, open, physics-based amusement. It’s not without issues but the open nature of the gameplay means that you can choose to either take on delivery missions or simply explore for fun, with a real sense of lightheartedness at its core. Surprisingly fun.

Gato Roboto

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Super cute Metroidvania with deliberately lo-fi, Game Boy-inspired visuals, Gato Roboto sees you playing as a mech-piloting cat exploring a deadly alien world. It’s charming, well designed and puts up a decent challenge, despite its cute looks. An excellent little indie game that definitely deserves to be seen by a much bigger audience than it currently seems to be reaching.

Gears of War: Judgment

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Perhaps it was a mistake to work my way through the numbered Gears games before starting Judgment, but you know what they say about hindsight – it’s 20/20, right? Gears Judgment has an oddly staccato rhythm, with fast paced but brief levels and a risk/reward system that adds some variety – yet the game as a whole feels very underwhelming. The story, being told in flashback, isn’t particularly engaging (though I’ve argued the same about the first few Gears games too) and the game itself seems to be a strange backwards step from a technical point of view. Still, it’s one that I’ll likely persevere with at some point, though with so much else capturing my attention at the moment, now isn’t the time.

So there we have it – a quick look at what I’ve been playing on Microsoft’s excellent subscription service. Outside of these games, I’ve also finished the first Assassin’s Creed and – having accumulated the rest of the series over the years – I’ve moved straight onto Assassin’s Creed II, which is an absolutely phenomenal leap in quality over the first game in almost every conceivable way. I’m finally beginning to see why the series is so popular, despite its shaky, overhyped, under-delivering first entry.

Thanks for joining me. Please stay safe and well – and happy gaming everyone!

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