There’s not much need for preamble this month - I had a busy June, but still managed to play quite a few games. They were mostly on the older side; in fact the only 2022 release I played during June was a demo, and I rarely play those.
I revisited two classics from my youth which still stand up remarkably well, in the form of gloomy tactics game Myth: The Fallen Lords (1997) and the forgotten Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb (2003). I continued my increasingly familiar ramble through the Halo series with the fairly tiresome spinoff Halo 3: ODST (2009), and that demo I mentioned was for the upcoming Agent 64: Spies Never Die. The real standout for me, though, was definitely Dragon’s Dogma. Inspired by the long-awaited announcement of a sequel, I finally picked up Hideaki Itsuno’s cult favourite action RPG and have been revelling in its idiosyncratic charms.
May’s instalment of “what I played” is a relatively brief one, simply because - well, I didn’t play that many games during the month. What I did unexpectedly get the chance to do is to review the excellent Sniper Elite 5, which is easily one of my favourite games of 2022 so far. I can admit to a surge of local pride, as developers Rebellion are based just down the road from me in Oxford. My full thoughts on the game are available for your reading pleasure at Entertainium.
I of course also found a bit of time to tackle some older games. Thanks to the generous folks at Epic, I was able to play hyper-fast futuristic racer Redout (2016). I took a bloody trip into the distant past with Raven’s badly dated shooter Soldier of Fortune (2000). Finally, I have a few thoughts on the remaster of the end-of-the-world action-adventure Darksiders (2010).
For me, April was another bumper month of games. In this month’s instalment of “What I played”, I cover seven games including two brand new ones which I’ve reviewed, and even one unreleased one, all of which I covered for Entertainium. In boomer shooter Forgive Me Father I confronted eldritch abominations, cosmic horrors and a sometimes severe lack of ammunition. B.I.O.T.A., meanwhile, is a very entertaining 8-bit style side-scroller set on an asteroid plagued by ravenous mutants. Both of these games have largely flown under the radar, but I do recommend them.
The four older games I tackled in April were the impressive remake Black Mesa (2020), underrated open-world shooter Rage 2 (2019), baffling Japanese adventure Yakuza 0 (2015) and the excellent sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015).
Rage 2 has been called “the sequel nobody wanted”, and with some justification. Developed by id Software and released in 2011, the original game didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Supposedly, id Software began working on a sequel which was terminated so that the company could focus on the 2016 Doom game. Later, the project was restarted under new management. The Rage 2 that saw release in May 2019 was largely developed by Swedish outfit Avalanche Studios, with the support and supervision of id Software. It also uses Avalanche’s own proprietary APEX engine.
On release, Rage 2 got the dreaded “mixed reviews”. It got a lot of 7 out of 10 scores, which in the demented world of video game scoring is generally taken to mean “this game sucks”. It’s quite possible that critics were increasingly tired of open-world games, and saw little need for a Rage sequel. The game’s structure may also have facilitated rushed playthroughs by critics, which may have kept them from seeing it at its best. Three years on, though, I’ve played Rage 2 for the first time and have been very pleasantly surprised. In fact, there’s a plausible case to be made that this broadly unwanted and unloved sequel is one of the more worthy shooters of recent years. It may have hilariously convoluted upgrade menus, and a thin story, but its core features are very entertaining indeed and it really gets a lot right. This, then, is my case in support of Rage 2 in six easy steps.
Appropriately enough given the state of the world, I start this month's games roundup with the post-apocalyptic tactics game Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden (2018). Later in March I tapped into the cultural zeitgeist - as I always do! - by going full goblin mode in the excellent stealth game Styx: Master of Shadows (2014).
Strap in, because this month's roundup is, happily, a particularly long one. There are a total of seven games to cover, even if one is technically "just" a DLC. On Entertainium duties, I also got the chance to cover a new game I'd been looking forward to. Sadly, Weird West didn't live up to my personal expectations, but I'm aware that I'm in the minority on that front.
Another month, and another step in the world seemingly disintegrating in front of our eyes. February was another tough four weeks of 2022, as our stupid, cruel and cowardly leaders continued to throw ordinary people under the bus. At least, as ever, there were games to play. In recent weeks I tackled two huge older games which I hadn’t previously played. One was the $6 billion juggernaut of Grand Theft Auto V (2013), and one was the triumphant return of the Slayer, Doom Eternal (2020).
Excitingly, I also got the chance to play two brand new games in the form of martial arts brawler Sifu and the shooter sequel Shadow Warrior 3. These two Asian-themed action games were both on my list of the games I’ve been most looking forward to this year, and they both lived up to my expectations - albeit in somewhat surprising ways. A quick overview of all of these games will follow, but for my in-depth thoughts on the newcomers check out my full-length reviews published on Entertainium.
Next month marks the second anniversary of Doom Eternal, which arrived just as the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The two have in some ways have followed a similar course since then, regularly introducing new variants to keep us on our toes. Late last year I revisited Doom (2016) in anticipation, and this month I finally caught up with id Software’s frenetic shooter sequel.
It’s one of those games which obviously cost a vast sum to develop, and every cent is seen on screen and felt in the slickness and addictiveness of the gameplay. It’s also exhausting, with combat so intense and fast-paced that I only ever tackled one level per day. It’s too late for anything so grandiose as a review, and arguably too early for a retrospective so what follows is merely some scattered, personal reflections on my experience with the game. The short version is that I loved Doom Eternal, albeit with some significant caveats.
2022 has arrived, and with it the promise of lots of new games and the first update of what I've been playing in the new year. I recently wrote about my most anticipated games coming up in 2022, but release dates are vague right now and as I write this none of those have been released yet.
Instead, in January I continued to catch up on or revisit some games from the last several years. I played Ensemble Studios strategy games Age of Empires III and Halo Wars for the first time, I revisited the shooters Wolfenstein: The New Order and Shadow Warrior 2, and replayed the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot for the first time since it was new. In February I'll have something to say about new games, but in the meantime here are my thoughts on the older ones I've played so far in 2022.
With their fourth Tomb Raider game, Crystal Dynamics took the chance to re-think the series a second time. In the process, they ensured more years of success and relevance for Lara Croft.
After being made the custodians of the Lara Croft and Tomb Raider phenomena in the early 2000s, California-based studio Crystal Dynamics released a successful trilogy of games. Legend (2006), Anniversary (2007) and Underworld (2008) restored the reputation of a series which had fallen on hard times. The name Lara Croft was once again associated with profitable games which earned good reviews. The developers had accomplished the mission set for them by publishers Eidos. What the Legend trilogy did not do, though, was to make any radical changes to the Tomb Raider formula. The games had steadied the ship; they had not plotted a whole new course.
The years after 2008 brought major changes to the context in which the Tomb Raider games were made. Eidos were bought out by Square Enix, and were transformed into the Japanese publisher’s European subsidiary. Clearly, the prospect of profiting from further Lara Croft adventures was a primary reason for the decision. Crystal Dynamics had begun working on a direct sequel to Underworld, but these plans were terminated. Instead, under new ownership the studio would again reboot the Tomb Raider series, just as they had done in 2006. This time would be different, though - they would plot a whole new course for Lara Croft.
Another year is here, and with it the promise of hundreds of new games. The promises are a bit vague in 2022 though, as the ongoing pandemic and various other factors have knocked many release dates severely out of whack. This year, I’ve compiled a list of the ten games I’m most looking forward to. They’re presented in approximate order of expected release, but it’s an inexact science given how many of these projects have no confirmed dates attached to them. They’re a varied bunch, ranging across a few genres and taking in both blockbusters and indie dark horses. We’ll see how many of these actually manage to make it out during 2022, and how many - if any - make it onto my games of the year list come December.
I write about classic science fiction and occasionally fantasy; I sometimes make maps for Doom II; and I'm a contributor to the videogames site Entertainium, where I regularly review new games.