Every gamer has a list of games they've been meaning to get to, and what better time than the spookiest time of year (and we're not talking about tax time) – Halloween.
This is your call to stop putting it off and dive into something new, whether you have time to or not. Imagine if that game you've been making excuses about suddenly disappeared tomorrow…like a ghost?
We've got a few suggestions, but there are no doubt countless more – 2023 has been very generous, as high a toll as it's taken on the developers, in some cases. Why not share your pick on our Discord?
Starlink: Battle for Atlas | Liam Andrews
My backlog comfortably extends into the previous generations of consoles (at least on Xbox and PS), but of all the titles I've been meaning to make time for it's Starlink on Switch.
My Switch backlog isn't actually too bad. I've recently polished off Metroid Prime Remastered, finished Skyward Sword and Pokémon Legends Arceus, and I'm making good progress on Super Mario Wonder.
Bought on a whim when the starter set was going for cheap (I think it cost me £11) back in 2019, the reason it's been neglected for so long is that I forget I own it.
Because of the starter kit's size, there's no space for it with my other stack of Switch games, so I had to stick it up high on top of a bookshelf where I occasionally spot Fox McCloud's Arwing model peering out at me through the plastic packaging.
Perhaps now I've put it in writing I'll finally remember to give the game a go sometime.
DOOM Eternal | Chris Brand
Though it may not be a traditional horror game, DOOM Eternal still pushes my tolerance for anything vaguely scary to its limit. Something I often indulge in around this time of year.
During combat, I feel like an unstoppable killing machine, ripping and tearing through hordes of demons without flinching. The unwavering enemies and intense soundtrack work in tandem to assault multiple senses, instilling a need to keep moving, always moving, away from whatever the hell that big ugly thing is and towards the small area which appears to have the lowest concentration of passing bullets. No time to think and barely a moment to react, just keep moving and keep shooting, until everything has stopped. Breathe.
It's in those quiet pauses between that the fear creeps in. Surrounded by unknown horrors, alone, low on shotgun shells and trapped in a nightmarish alien world, I suddenly feel very stoppable. Vulnerable, even. Every sound causes me to jump. I find myself walking slowly, as if my footsteps could alert something that was somehow unstirred by the cacophony of screams and gunfire that seems to follow me around. The brief respite somehow amplifies the tension and, eventually, the fear wins.
I'd say I got roughly half way through on my first attempt, which is a testament to just how much fun DOOM Eternal is, other horror titles tend to scare me away long before I can make any real progress.
It's that time again. Just like with the PS3 before it, PlayStation has decided the PS5 could stand to lose a bit of weight (and some height) in preparation for the festive season.
The new models hit a similar price point and come up 30% smaller than their parents, with the digital edition even having the option for a module upgrade to make it…no so digital.
Are you tempted to pick up the new model? Which are you pondering? Let us know on our Discord.
It was safe to assume that we'd have a slightly smaller, and slightly better, console before the inevitable mid-gen enhancements, but this seems solely intended for new customers, with very little reason for current owners to upgrade. Having more storage space is always welcome (or it would be, if external hard drives didn't provide more for less) though, in my opinion, this is cancelled out by having more real-estate to dust in the living room. Smaller isn't always better.
I do like the choice of going all-digital and buying a disc drive later down the line and I'm expecting other companies (both of them) to start promoting a similar option. As so many are hesitant to make the transition to digital, and with valid reasons, this could become the default. Having fully, and surprisingly, embraced digital gaming, I rarely lament the lack of a disc drive. However, collectors of fancy special editions could be saved from buyer's remorse.
For anyone who was just about to pull the trigger, it may be good timing, there's just not enough to entice me and I suspect many PS5 players may wait for the Pro version rather than forking out for a PlayStation 5.1.
The cynic in me believes that Sony has found a legitimate way of avoiding the Christmas price cut everyone was expecting. For the cost of the digital edition, I could get almost 4,000 "Finest Quality" meatballs (I'm pretty sure that's the brand name because it's certainly not a description). If I'm paying 4,000 meatballs for a PS5, I want as much of it as possible. I'll think about buying 30% less of your console when you knock 1,200 meatballs off my bill.
As much as I enjoy the convenience of a digital library, I would still opt for the PS5 bundle that includes the disc drive as it is cheaper than upgrading the all-digital console at a later date, which just seems unnecessarily unfair towards those who do initially go drive-less.
While I recognise that the console is 30% smaller and modular, I still don’t think it’s the best redesign. Some of the previous PlayStation slim models were sleek looking pieces of tech (especially the PS2 and PS3 models) and it was a bit disappointing to see the overall PS5 design hasn’t changed that much, and the ungainly driver bulge is still very much present.
I can appreciate that what a console looks like isn’t that important given its job is to sit under your TV and play games and play them well (and the PS5 does do that) but the whole thing seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.
For example, I have no need for a Series S considering I already own the more powerful Series X, but I still really want one because of its sleek and compact form factor and pure novelty value. The same can’t be said for the PS5 slim.
While playing the new Forza Motorsport, I found myself pondering what the game says about the series, and gaming in general. So this isn’t quite a review of Forza Motorsport, but hear me out.
You may already know the eighth game in the original Forza series takes things back-to-basics, rebooting the game for a new generation. In short, it’s an excellent racing experience filled with the best simulated vehicles and tracks you can find in the genre today, and yet something feels a little…off. The question is why.
Racing games as a genre haven’t always had to try so hard. Back in the day, we were happy with a sprite and the odd pixelated tree on the side of the track, now the push for photorealistic visuals, arguably achieved by Forza Motorsport 4 back in 2011, has led to players’ expectations soaring higher and higher.
Like games as an industry, we keep wanting, nay demanding, more.
Forza Motorsport 7, released back in 2017, hit a staggering 830 cars – once all the DLC was said and done – with 200 track configurations in 32 locations, so it’s no surprise it’s taken a while for developers Turn 10 to feel like they had something new to bring to the table.
But where do you go?
More fidelity? More tracks? More cars? The driving and handling experience itself was long-perfected by the time the Xbox One’s entry in the series, Forza Motorsport 5, rolled up in 2013, and you can only tie-in with so many TV shows and films before even that variety wears thin.
You could argue that motorsport itself hasn’t changed in decades, giving the team an uphill climb from the starting line, but enthusiasm for the sport has never been higher. Slightly different, sure, but Formula 1, for example, passed an average of million viewers per race last year.
Drift into a powerslide
There seems to be only one obvious solution – double down.
The tuning and car customisation options in the latest game are incredible, and it would be ridiculous to expect even more in that department, but perhaps make more of a game of it?
Not everyone has a detail-orientated approach to games, and introducing minigames which play on some of the extremes of what tuning is capable of, a cleverly disguised opportunity to educate, could bring the experience to life in a new way, and allow the player to bring the knowledge back into the main game’s driving journey.
Next, leave the drivers out of it entirely.
While it might seem like a bit of fun to watch them frantically change gear through the rear windscreen as you tear around the track, more than a cursory glance confirms that even in this latest instalment the animations are rigid and one-note. Far from adding to immersion it actually creates a distraction for those used to an exterior view of the car in their driving games.
Finally, a more clear line between the serious, buttoned-up sim experience and the more relaxed, even arcade-y side of the genre would avoid players who aren’t quite as into the realism angle have more fun with the game.
Introduce more extreme damage options as additional challenges, daring you to make it down the track with only a single hit or jolt between your car and a written-off mess.
The tracks could stand to have a little more flexibility and customisation too, letting you customise environmental effects and add hazards to remix existing tracks in fun new ways. Or even leverage Xbox’s vast back catalogue of franchises to have you explore exciting, even out-of-this-world locations.
There’s nothing wrong with Forza Motorsport, and the team at Turn 10 no doubt will have a lot of fun additions and improvements still to come after release, but if they want to really bring in new fans to this series, something has to change.
Forza Motorsport (2023) is available now on Xbox Game Pass. Code provided by Microsoft.
With the PTC favourite Sea of Thieves getting a new PVE-only mode – Safer Seas – we’ve been thinking about our favourite PVE experiences of all time and the multiplayer titles that could be improved with such a feature. It might be competitive or cooperative, but any game where you’re playing with others and there’s some enemy AI involved is fair game.
What would you choose?
Apex Legends | Liam Andrews
I enjoyed Apex Legends when it first came out, even managing a victory in which my team of randoms carried me to the win. But I didn’t stick with it and with five years of new features and a probably well-established community of players who know the game a lot better than I do, I’m afraid to jump back in.
Which is a shame, because I like the setting and characters, and Respawn knows how to make a shooter that looks and plays great (Titanfall 2). A PvE mode would be the perfect way to be reintroduced to the game, a place where I could familiarise myself with years of new content and characters without the stress of worrying about real (and much better) players blasting me away.
Apex Legends has had a PvE mode in the past, but it was a limited time event and I missed out on it. I would like to see a permanent PvE playlist added, even if it was just a simple wave defence mode where a team tries to defend a stronghold against enemy AI. There’s rumours Apex Legends could be getting a single player campaign spin-off, and while I’d be interested in such a product, I’d still like to see a PvE mode to scratch that multiplayer itch.
Left 4 Dead 2 | James Parry
I think Left 4 Dead 2 was the first game I played where I thought of the AI in the game as a character. Since it was a while ago, let’s recap - Left 4 Dead is a zombie survival series from Valve, built on the engine that powered the gold-standard classic that is Half-Life 2.
For the second game especially, the game had an element which reacted to the player. If you were doing well then the AI would generate different barriers in the level to make it more difficult. If you stay still for too long, you’d find a horde of zombies would spawn to punish you.
This variability made every playthrough of the game’s (originally) four campaigns more varied, unexpected and exciting.
On top of that, the scavenge multiplayer game mode remains one of the most fun cooperative multiplayer experiences of all time, constantly replayable and fun, and the gameplay still holds up today.
The variety of the enemy behaviour in the game also raised the bar. The special infected, now a trope shared by pretty much all zombie survival games, jump, explode and attack in unique and interesting ways – building on the blueprint set out by the first game. The development team found new types to introduce, which slot into the roster so effortlessly.
An also-ran which shouldn’t be overlooked here is the original Halo, which had the earliest example I can remember of enemy AI avoiding grenades, something which to this day makes some of those encounters foundational experiences in gaming.
The final one to mention is Titanfall 2, where there are AI grunts milling around, filling up the world, just to make your battles feel more epic.