Welcome back to the latest instalment of Zatu's Video Game of the Month!
Well, what can I say? Sat here, with a coffee in hand and huddled around my measly laptop, grasping what little warmth I can muster out of its cold, metallic embrace. It's damn cold outside! And inside! I don’t know where you are (it would be creepy if I did) but it has been so cold lately, that it has actually even snowed a few times of late. And it never snows here!
So, what can one do when the blankets are cold and stiff, and you can see your own breath in the living room? The ideal solution to this is to top up the ol’ gas card for heating, but that requires the illusive clink of pennies not easily obtained whilst being a mature student. The more affordable solution is to power up your chosen console/PC, whack on a RAM intensive game, and huddle around the warm fan outlet.
So, what have the Zatu team been playing lately? I know I for one have been playing older games (that you will soon see) whilst I save my hard-earned pennies for more gas Elden Ring!
Since computer games got so fast and I got so slow, it’s hard to get on board with the latest Super Call of Battle-Nite or whatever… and online players are just so mean! Some games don’t need split-second reflexes and snark for days and that just suits me fine. I don’t mind a bit of meanness though, and XCOM 2 has it in delicious spades.
Following on from XCOM: Enemy Unknown and released in 2016, it is a similar turn-based game that suggests that… good may not have prevailed last time. XCOM is on the run in a (don’t call it a helicarrier)… um… hover base… and is carrying out hit-and-run guerilla war on an occupied earth, slowly rebuilding the resistance and preparing to take the fight back to our extra-terrestrial overlords.
Things will get messy.
For a turn-based strategy series, XCOM has always had that ‘just one more mission’ element that keeps you hooked as minutes turn to hours, day turns to night and dinner turns to charcoal (sorry dear), and if you haven’t played any of the XCOM games, prepare to have your heartbroken. Those soldiers aren’t just soldiers, they’re carefully nurtured freedom fighters at the cutting edge of liberty and there will be sacrifices, especially if a simple smash and grab unearths a nest of crysalids, intent in turning your finest into baby food, and turns into a complete clusterwhatsit.
What with all the research options, ship/base building, soldier specialisations, experimental weapons, and armours you really cannot beat XCOM 2 for an utterly captivating experience no matter how many times you play it, no matter how many times you watch your veteran ranger get torn apart in a heroic last stand against a pack of berserkers… and I haven’t even touched the expansions yet either. Well done, Commander…
Valve’s classic, Left4Dead, is a series that I only dabbled with briefly on the Xbox 360. I was far too busy playing Dead Space (can’t wait for the remake!), Metal Gear Solid 4 and the awesome Bioshock. I also didn’t enjoy playing online “randoms”, so an online shooter wasn’t really my thing. It wasn’t until the last couple of years when I played Killing Floor that I got into the genre. Then I jumped into World War Z and then, this year, Aliens Fireteam. I’m now fully engrossed in the frantic nature of the titles and their immensely fun combat.
So, when Back 4 Blood was announced and heralded as the spiritual successor to Left4Dead and was very interested. Although Left4Dead didn’t appeal to me at the time I can’t deny its pedigree. It sits with Valve’s other fantastic titles and, like them all, frustrated the fanbase by not getting a third entry. And Back 4 Blood doesn’t disappoint, it is essentially the third Left4Dead - light on story, heavy on craziness and guns. There really isn’t anything I can say that our very own John Hunt didn’t cover in his high-praising review. It’s immensely fun, overwhelming in a good way, and the gunplay is silky, butter-covered poetry.
I am somewhat of an OCD martyr and completionist. So much so that I become disturbingly uncomfortable inside knowing that ‘completionist’ isn’t actually a word. *shudder*. But there is one thing that has been gnawing at me for quite some time now, and that is the fact that my trophy information is sitting ugly at about 89% for Fallout 4, even though I popped that addictive platinum a long time ago. I decided it was time to finally finish the DLCs that I missed, hoping that I get it done in time. In time for Elden Ring of course. I imagine that will be an absolute time sink for me.
I am however enjoying myself with the game far more than I did at original release, as, being that OCD completionist machine that I am, forced me to play the game in an ‘optimal’ way in order to pop all the trophies, and that limited my capacity to just sit back and enjoy the game to some degree. Now I am playing it, mainly ignoring the main quests, and just looting as much duct tape and wonder glue as I can find in order to craft the best and most insane weapons and armour that I can. God damn adhesive is rarer than gold in this post-apocalyptic masterpiece.
There is something to be said about patrolling the wasteland, not in search for adventure, not in the search for treasure, but instead, in search for nothing more than desk fans, hot plates and crystal decanters to break down and build more useless junk with the components.
I am now already debating whether or not I should finally give Fallout 76 a try. I have avoided it for so long. So, so, long. Perhaps that will be my next month’s choice.
I’ve got to admit, the Pokemon craze kinda passed me by first time around. Red and Blue came out on the Gameboy in 1999 in the UK. When I was 17, didn’t see the appeal and didn’t own a Gameboy. I was far too busy playing Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Silent Hill and Resident Evil: Nemesis on the original PlayStation. I didn’t have time for what I saw as a game for kids (I was young and naive).
But in 2006 I was commuting on public transport, so obviously had a Nintendo DS to help shut out the world around me. And I decided to jump into the Pokemon universe with Pokemon Diamond. I was instantly hooked. It’s incredibly satisfying enslaving wild animals and forcing them to fight in the hope of winning badges. The gameplay loop of getting a new creature, levelling it up, unlocking new skills and fighting other Pokemon for glory is addictive.
Playing the newly released remake - Brilliant Diamond brought the memories flooding back. Cold mornings at train stations. Hot chocolate and DS in hand. Waiting to hear that my train has been delayed because of a frost-covered leaf on the track - it was glorious. Both Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are refreshing yet familiar.
The graphics haven’t been completely overhauled, but they don’t need to be. Part of Pokemon’s appeal has always been its simplicity. Both titles are perfect for reliving the originals and for introducing new people to the franchise. It hasn’t quite grabbed my three-year-old’s attention away from Minecraft but he does ask how I’m doing on it regularly, so the interest is there and hopefully I’ll soon be guiding him through his first Pokemon adventure.
The other game I have been sinking time into this past month is Jump Force. Now, I absolutely love anime. Particularly the ones of the Shonen variety. I could not even begin to tell you how many days, weeks even, that I sunk into the Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm series. I know I spent over 100 hours on one of those alone before I hit a trophy glitch, so I needed to do the 100 hours a second time to achieve the glitched trophy. Yes, I know, I know, like I said, OCD, completionist yarda yarda yarda. But I needed that platinum. NEEDED it.
I have so many fond memories of playing those games, that it was only a matter of time before I got my hands on Jump Force. I waited a long time due to the poor reception it received at launch, but I am enjoying my time so far with it.
It is by no means a perfect game. The lobby system and story, both reminiscent of that of Dragon Ball Xenoverse, falls far short of inspiring. That and knowing the servers are shutting down later on next year is not a strong selling point this far after release. BUT that being said, it is still a mighty fun game to have in your arsenal of couch games if ever you have friends or family over for some old school in-person gaming. It is reminiscent of the hours I spent battling my friend on the Ninja Storm games, screaming “REMATCH” at each other the second one of us is defeated.
The fighting is intuitive and simple and makes for a great gaming session. Plus, not many games can pit Goku against All Might or Sanji against Yugi Moto. Jump Force can be a lot of fun and is unique enough to warrant worth giving a go!
And there we go, another 5 gaming worlds that we have been spending our cold November days in. Mostly older games in this month’s feature, but I guess we are all putting our pennies towards Christmas presents (and gas top-ups!) at the moment. Stay tuned for December’s feature, where hopefully we will all have some new shiny games to drool over from Christmas. Until then, best wishes for the Christmas season, and thanks for reading!