15th September, 2023
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we’ve found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: strawberry jam, horrible choices and a half-tuck comfort blanket.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We’ve Been Playing, here’s our archive.
If you’ve ever felt like jumping into a game to just make a great big bloody mess, you have to try Prodeus. It’s a glorious retro FPS with a fierce soundtrack, an army of pixelated enemies and an arsenal of bellowing guns that can flatten a horde in minutes.
It’s as much a stress toy as a shooter, really, but the developers at Bounding Box Software use clever effects to create an opulent rampage. Light sources affect environments, blurry guns, enemies, and even blood gunge alike. It’s gory, yes, but it’s a cartoon. Blast a demon in half and admire the glow of muzzle fire refracted through a spray of strawberry jam.
Enemies collapse and explode at about two frames per second, gun reload animations are slightly faster, and you move at as many frames as your gaming machine allows. If you were going to invent the FPS from scratch in 2023 you would never make it like this, but Prodeus artfully recreates an era when 2D sprites plodded awkwardly through 3D environments. More importantly, it delivers that Doom-era combination of player speed, responsive input and spectacle. In short bursts, it’s exhilarating.
If you’re missing a good no-nonsense shooter this release season, Prodeus is a good quick fix, and it’s on Game Pass. It sits nicely in my collection alongside DUSK, Ion Fury, Amid Evil, and the modern DOOM games. What should I try next? Metal: Hellsinger, or maybe ULTRAKILL?
Baldur’s Gate 3, PS5
I am pushing this game in some horrible directions, I tell you. I genuinely lost sleep the other night because I was torn over a decision I knew I would make but didn’t want to. But I’m doing it because I want to test boundaries – I want to see how hard I can push and have the game still support me.
Since I last reported in, I’ve had two more companions permanently leave me, outraged over decisions I’ve made. One of those companions is now dead but the other is nowhere to be seen. I wonder if I’ll see them again (they’d better hope not!).
Yet, it’s a hard path I walk, not least because I know from my partner’s playthrough how much these missing companions bring to the game. Which leaves me thinking – and it’s here that I pull back to the moment in bed, being torn about the upcoming decision – about what the game can possibly give me in their place.
Well thankfully now I know – I know some of it – because when I performed the atrocious deed I was worrying about, the game did, in fact, reward me. It rewarded me with a brand new companion of sorts, and a steamy encounter I’m sure the vast majority of Baldur’s Gate 3 players will never see. And it wasn’t a trivial thing, either. It felt like the beginning of a storyline built to run through the entirety of the game. To think that other people see only a battle with this character before they inevitably win, killing the character, and then move on! To leave discovery of your content up to chance like that. It’s exactly that aspect of the game I find so impressive.
And it’s exactly that aspect of the game I remain in search of. How far, I wonder, will it let me go?
Uncharted 2, PS5
I know that a lot of people who suffer from anxiety tend to rewatch the same film or TV series time and time again, as they already know what’s going to happen, so it creates a sense of comfort and safety. I do that too, but with video games.
The Uncharted series is probably one of my biggest security blankets when the world feels too overwhelming. They have a fun balance of action/adventure gameplay and engaging storylines to soothe my soul during more difficult periods. They don’t exactly go into mental health, but they are always good for my mental health.
That is why I restarted Uncharted 2: Among Thieves earlier this month. This year has been incredibly difficult for me, and I needed to find some relief. So, last weekend, I put on some comfortable clothes, unrolled the sofa bed, gathered the snacks, and settled in for a few hours of escapism with Nathan Drake.
I love the opening of Uncharted 2. That snowy trainwreck scene is just so good at setting up what you need to do and how you need to do it, but still leaves plenty of room for questions – what is going on? What happened to Drake? Why is the train in ruins? What is that strange object he picked up? Where are Sully and Elena?
Then, with this air of suspense and mystery nicely in place, you are swiftly transported from the cold, unforgiving mountainside to a sunny beachside bar. Here, you are introduced to two new characters for the series, both captivating in their own ways. And now, the adventure truly begins.
Uncharted 2 is never boring. The pacing is brilliant, the script is witty and engaging, and the set-pieces are a big playground of fun. So, while I am enjoying many of this year’s new releases, sometimes the call of the familiar is needed. And, when the familiar is still this enjoyable, even years down the line, it makes for a very welcome afternoon of escapism indeed.
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